With less than a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched a full-blown attack at Trinamool Congress (TMC). It seems that the ruling party at the Centre, which has been witnessing a steady rise in the state, has chosen festivities in West Bengal to take on the Mamata Banerjee government and gather favourable mandate. The intent became evident during Ram Navami when BJP held several rallies across the state. The situation escalated when TMC countered with holding rallies triggering widespread clashes. And the Prime Minister’s visit to Midnapore, considered Mamata Banerjee’s bastion, showed what the BJP may have up its sleeves.
Addressing a large gathering of supporters at a rain-soaked farmers’ rally, Modi said that the heritage and practices of West Bengal, a land of patriots, was under attack by the government. “Efforts have been made to undermine the great traditional heritage of Bengal,” the PM said at the rally in Midnapore. The PM’s remarks need to be seen in the context of the BJP’s push in the state that never was its stronghold. Religion, many say, has become the BJP’s primary weapon with the saffron party alleging that Hindus are under threat under the current dispensation.
The aggression with which the party has pursued Ram Navami celebrations for the past few years, despite apparent roadblocks by the TMC government, is an assertion of its political strategy until now. And this does not appear to be heading for any change going further too.
BJP has been organising mega celebrations during the ongoing Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra. The matter gains fresh attraction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi claiming that West Bengal’s “puja” is under “threat” during the Mamata Banerjee government in the state. And the party’s next offensive could be unprecedented celebrations for Janmashtami in the state. While the state does celebrate Janmashtami, the celebrations do not stretch to an extent that the saffron organisations are planning this time around.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) are planning to hold massive programme on the occasion of ‘Janmashtami’ that will include hundreds of rallies. While BJP will not organise anything on its own, it has pledged support to the programmes held by religious and social organisations. “Rath Yatra and Janmashtami are our festivals. The BJP is not organising any programmes. But the thousands of programmes organised by religious and social organisations will see BJP leaders and workers participating,” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha told The Indian Express.
Talking about the massive arrangements being planned for the ‘Janmashtami’, that is likely to fall on September 2, a VHP top leader asserted that the outfit will hold 700 rallies during Janmashtami. “We have about 1,000 units in south Bengal, all of which will participate in Janmashtami celebrations. Moreover, 700 rallies will take place — some with tableaus and some with pictures of Lord Krishna,” VHP organising secretary Sachindranath Sinha told IE.
The VHP is also planning to hold Janmashtami celebrations on a much larger scale so that it becomes a social celebration. Discussions and religious discourses will be held on Lord Krishna in the state.
Aware of the situation that arose during the state government’s last year’s controversial directive that had restricted Durga idol immersions on Vijayadashami , the last day of the four-day Durga Puja, citing law and order issue as Muharram fell on the very next day and Ram Navami this year, CM Banerjee has asked the administration to remain extra “careful”.
“Some people have some plans over Rath Yatra and Janmashtami festivals. They might try to implement their plans. But everyone has to be careful. The administration should be specially careful. None should be allowed to create communal tension that might lead to riots,” CM Banerjee had said last week.
With these developments, it will be interesting to see how Bengal’s communal fabric will be used as a tool to make political gains and who emerges as the real winner.