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PM's presence at December 24 discourse imparts political significance

By Tirthankar Mitra

Making no secret of any love being lost for each other, Trinamool Congress seeks to upstage BJP on what the saffron camp considers to be its sole preserve – religion. An outfit stated to be close to the ruling dispensation of West Bengal has planned to organise a Chandi Path programme days before a Gita Path programme by an organisation. stated to be close to BJP on December 24 at Brigade Parade Ground. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending this BJP sponsored programme.

The city is no stranger to back to back political rallies and processions. But one does not readily recall such competitive religious programmes which seek to upstage one another being held even in the distant past.

Rani Rashmoni Avenue in the heart of Kolkata is reported to be the venue of the proposed Chandi Path programme. Both the programmes assume significance as Union home minister, Amit Shah had called upon state BJP leaders to ensure 35 candidates victory from West Bengal which has 42 Lok Sabha constituencies and parliamentary elections are just 3-4 months away.

The BJP won 18 seats in the 2019 . While Shah aims to almost double the figure, the fact remains that the West Bengal unit of BJP is in doldrums with state leaders speaking against one another thereby achieving the target set by Shah to be a tall order.

In this backdrop, the Gita Path programme was quite in keeping with the state of the divided West Bengal unit of the saffron camp. Apart from a handful of law violation programmes coupled with turning Assembly sessions into bedlam together with some adverse court orders against TMC state government, it has little to show as signs of Opposition resurgence against the ruling TMC regime..

The state BJP is eyeing the Gita Path programme to better it's political prospects on the Christmas Eve with a visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi thrown in for good measure, TMC has not taken the aid of religion in election battles till date. Though chief minister Mamata Banerjee is a practising Hindu who recited slokas from the Chandi in 2021 Assembly elections campaign and organises Kali Puja in a big way at her Kalighat residence, religion had little to do with the ruling party of West Bengal.

A senior TMC leader rubbished the charge that religion is being roped in to reinforce the party's arsenal for the poll campaign next year. Till date, Mamata Banerjee and other TMC leaders had taken on an assorted Opposition on the strength of a raft of development projects like Kanyasree, Sabuj Sathi, Lakshmir Bhandar to name a few.

Though chief minister Banerjee had spoken of her devotion to deities of all religions and participated in some of the religious festivals, she had steered clear of religion even when Prime Minister Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah were crisscrossing West Bengal during the 2021 Assembly election campaign. But with her hand on the pulse of the people of the state, it seems she is loath to take any chances in the 2024 electoral battle.

Incidentally, Sri Panchayati Akhara Mahanirbani Sri Sri Brahmamayee Kali Bari, Noapara the organiser of “Lokkho Konthe Gita Path” (A lakh voices chanting Gita) programme invited chief minister Mamata Banerjee and governor C V Anand Bose together with PM Modi to attend the function. The invitations water down the charge that the Gita reading session will be an out and out saffron affair.

Yet attendance of the political bigwigs to the Gita Path programme lends it with political colour. The same applies to the Chandi Path programme owing to the proximity of its date and venue to the Gita Path programme. The Chandi Path venue and the date are yet undecided but organisers denied any competition with the Gita Path programme. It was learnt that chief minister Banerjee had attended a big programme organised by Paschimbanga Rajya Sanatan Brahaman Trust at Digha in August.

The idea of the Chandi Path programme was at a nascent stage then. But reasons behind the plan of holding it in a big way preceding the Gita Path programme are not known. It seems that though BJP was faster on the draw, the TMC has outplayed the saffron by organizing it before December 24. No reports of the Gita Path programme being advanced I nottere.

in the state have kept religion at arm's length in the post-independence period. The scars of communal conflagration of 1946 and an independence stained by Partition next year saw to it. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh stalwart rode the crest of popularity for championing the cause of the refugees. Communal incitement was never a part of his campaign pitch.

Neither the Congress governance nor the Left Front regime have pandered to religion. The rise of the BJP in the state saw religious slogans being raised and related issues being invoked at political rallies. West Bengal witnessed occasional communal flare ups following the Babri mosque demolition and other issues. But they were quickly tackled and fizzled out on their own.

It is to be seen how finally, the two programmes are organized and what messages get delivered. There are reportedly some moves for a joint programme. In sum, the year end has assumed significance in terms of both politics and religion in Bengal coinciding with the poll campaign for Lok Sabha elections 2024.

(IPA Service)





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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