TMC, BJP lock horns over appropriation of Bengal’s cultural icons

Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee. File

Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee. File   | Photo Credit: Sushanta Patronobish

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee on Wednesday took a swipe at Union Home Minister Amit Shah when the former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president offered tributes to the social reformer and educationist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on his death anniversary.

Mr. Banerjee, who heads the youth wing of TMC, raked up the issue of the vandalisation of the bust of the social reformer during Mr. Shah’s rally in May 2019 in Kolkata. The TMC MP described Mr. Shah’s homage to Vidyasagar as a “petty tokenism”.

Mr. Banerjee said on Twitter: “Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a great social reformer who still stands tall as an inspiration for secular, free-thinking society. Ironic how @AmitShah ji had scant regard for Vidyasagar’s values when his men vandalised the latter’s bust. Please drop this facade of petty tokenism!”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Shah had tweeted, “I bow to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar ji on his punyatithi (death anniversary). A distinguished social reformer and one of the pillars of Bengal Renaissance, who played a major role towards women empowerment. His relentless efforts eradicated many social evils and made Widows’ Remarriage Act possible.”

‘Party of outsiders’

The exchange on Twitter had a lot to do with appropriation of the cultural icons of West Bengal before the State Assembly goes to polls in 2021. Earlier this month, BJP president J.P. Nadda, while participating in a virtual rally on the birth anniversary of Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee, targeted the Trinamool government of West Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during her address at a Martyrs Day rally, said that “outsiders will not run Bengal and those from the State will administer it”. The remarks were aimed at painting the BJP as a party of outsiders and alien to the culture of the State.

Political observer and head of the Department of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati University Biswanath Chakraborty said that from the end of 2016, the BJP has been systemically trying to project that it was not alien to the culture and history of the State. While the BJP is trying to drive home the point that it is inheriting the rich cultural and philosophical legacy of the State, the Trinamool Congress leaves no opportunity to say that it is a party of outsiders, distant from the secular ethos propagated by the cultural icons of the State.

“Amit Shah has given lectures in Kolkata on Bamkim Chandra Chattopadhyay. From Bamkim Chandra to Vivekananda to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the BJP is trying to shun the tag that it is the party of outsiders. In fact, from the time of it’s very rise in the State, the party has been trying to appropriate Bengal’s cultural icons,” Mr. Chakraborty said.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 1:51:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/tmc-bjp-lock-horns-over-appropriation-of-bengals-cultural-icons/article32224358.ece

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