The ruling Trinamool Congress has come under sharp criticism from the Congress and the Left for toeing a “soft Hindutva” line, a move that the BJP has described as an attempt to arrest the consolidation of Hindu votes in favour of the saffron party. The TMC, in its defence, said that the BJP doesn’t have a copyright to Hindutva. “What the BJP is preaching is not Hinduism. They just want to divide the society. We want to take along all communities and religion and move forward,” a senior TMC leader said. The issue came to the fore in the wake of the TMC organising a “Brahmin convention” in Birbhum district earlier this week. Thousands of priests were felicitated at the programme and each of them was given a copy of Bhagavad Gita, a shawl and pictures of Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada. The Congress and the Left parties alleged that the recent surge in the BJP’s vote share in the state byelections has forced the TMC to practise “soft Hindutva” and woo the Hindu voters. Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Abdul Mannan said, “Politics driven by religious compulsion is a dangerous trend and will destroy the communal harmony of the state in the long run.” The state CPI(M) leadership also expressed apprehensions that the “competitive communalism practised by the TMC and the BJP” in Bengal may have dangerous consequences.
“The TMC is feeding minority fundamentalism whereas the BJP is feeding majority communalism. Now the TMC is trying to beat the BJP in its own game of Hindutva with an image makeover,” CPM MLA Sujan Chakrabarty said. Since the party came to power in 2011, the TMC was accused by the BJP of appeasing the Muslim community which comprises around 30 per cent of the total electorate in the state. Various decisions by the TMC government such as allowances to imams and muzzeins were seen as an attempt to appease the minorities. Senior TMC leader and MP Saugata Roy said working for various communities “is part of the TMC’s policy” and it has nothing to do with appeasing a particular community. “It has nothing to do with appeasing anyone. The TMC stands for secularism,” Roy told PTI. When asked about the TMC organising the Brahmin convention, Roy said, “This is an isolated incident. You should not draw any conclusion from it.” TMC’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal, the prime organiser of the Brahmin convention, had said the programme was arranged to highlight the “misinterpretations” of Hinduism by the BJP and discuss what the Hindu religion stood for. “The BJP doesn’t have a copyright to Hindutva,” another TMC leader said.
The BJP state leadership, however, said the fear of consolidation of Hindu votes under it has forced the TMC to change its political line. “From the rise in our party’s vote share in last few bypolls, the TMC has understood that Hindus are uniting under the BJP’s leadership. That is why they are now trying to please the Hindus,” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the TMC had realised that it would no longer be able to win elections just by appeasing the Muslims and was trying to woo Hindus with an “image makeover”.