West Bengal’s elections has become a neck-to-neck competition between the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the Bhartiya Janta party (BJP). The political leaders of BJP and AITC are leaving no chance to impress their voters. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has turned her attention to appeasing Hindus. The current example of Mamata Banerjee playing the ‘Hindu card’ is her decision to observe ‘Ram Navami’ next Sunday (March 25). This announcement is significant because she strongly opposed Ram Navami’s celebration by the BJP leaders last year. This year, she has instructed her party leaders and workers to take out ‘rath yatras’ on Sunday to mark Shree Ram’s birthday.
Last year when hundreds came out on the street to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram, Mamata Banerjee tried to state a false narrative that Shree Ram is not revered in Bengal and Bengali Hindus have no history of worshipping him. “Over the past five years, restrictions were imposed on celebration of Saraswati Puja and Durga Puja in certain places by Trinamool Congress government. Temples were attacked and desecrated, but the state government looked the other way. A Muslim mob attacked Hindu homes and establishments, but no action was taken against the culprits. Banerjee shuts down schools run by Hindu organisations for including Hindu scriptures in the curriculum but encourages madrassas that allow radical Islam, hatred and jihad to flourish. Hindus, therefore, are obviously hurt and angry,” said a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary, who has worked in Bengal for the past few decades. Banerjee realises all this and, hence, her desperate attempt to please. On the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, when BJP workers chanted ‘Jai Shree Ram, Mamata Banerjee lashed out at them and accused them of insulting Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
The CM had lost her cool twice in the past over people for chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram. Eight people were booked by Jagaddal police in the North 24 Parganas in 2019 for shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ near her motorcade. In June 2020, Mamata Banerjee said that she had a problem with BJP using the slogan in a misconceived manner by mixing religion with politics. “Mamata Banerjee is in a hurry to prove she is more Hindu than Modi,” says the Kolkata- based political observer, researcher and activist Kumar Rana. “As BJP started emerging stronger in the state in the past two years, Banerjee has started appeasing Hindus and replicating the BJP’s hindHindutvand of politics. Her approach is not as regressive as the BJP’s, but it is soft hind Hindutva. By giving donations to Durga Puja committees, building temples and holding religious rallies, Banerjee and her party have taken a series of initiatives since last year, with the general elections approaching, to gain Hindu votes BJP has been eyeing. Banerjee announced the construction of the Jagannath temple in Digha, 183 kilometres from Kolkata.
The Mayor of Asansol, Jitendra Kumar Tiwari, has started mobilising funds to build 10 sun temples. A grant of ₹28 crore was offered to Durga Puja organisers out of state. At a Martyrs’ Day rally on March 23, Banerjee emphasised that her party doesn’t subscribe to the BJP’s version of Hinduism, but she rattled off a list of Hindu gods. Apart from organising Ram Navami processions this year, Banerjee has taken many overt and covert measures to woo back Hindus over the past year. She has discarded the hijab and has rarely been seen in public wearing it. With her express approval, the party leaders organised sammelanas for Brahmins and handed over one time (cash awards and material gift) to purohits.
Again, while addressing AITC workers in Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee recited several Hindu mantras for 10 minutes straight to counter the ‘Muslim appeasement’ charge mounted by BJP. Mamata Banerjee added that the BJP should not “play its Hindu card with me”.