Kolkata: Well-known freedom fighter nad founder of the Indian National Army, Netaji Subhash Chandra Boses’ 125th birth anniversary programme at Vicotria Memorial, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, was marred by ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans raised by a section of the crowd.
The unruly crowd was protesting when Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and Chief Minister Banerjee was speaking in the programme, which was organised by the Central government ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Clearly peeved by the slogan shouting, Banerjee decided to skip her speech, but was present in the programme till its end.
“Don't insult me after calling me here. This is not a political programme. If you invite someone to a government programme, you should not insult them," Banerjee said, and cut short her speech.
Interestingly, when the PM spoke, the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans were not heard. Instead one could hear chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai".
Political observers feel that raising ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans by an unruly crowd at a high security programme in Victoria Memorial was part of BJP’s strategy to appropriate and cash in on Netaji’s name during his 125th anniversary programme, with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.
An unruly BJP crowd raised the same slogan earlier in the afternoon, at about at 3 p.m, when Modi visited Netaji’s ancestral house, something unheard of in the premises earlier.
It may be recalled Modi had announced January 23 ( Netaji’s birthday) as ‘Valiancy Day merely to dodge the age-old demand by Mamata Banerjee that it be declared Patriotism Day. Both TMC and BJP were literally in organising Netaji’s Birth Anniversary Programme. Unfortunately, a diginified occasion was turned into a political slugfest, with the shouting of slogans that had nothing to do with Netaji.
Earlier, the West Bengal Chief Minister led a walk from Shyambazaar Five Point Crossing, where Netaji’s birth was announced, with traditional conch shells and sirens sounded throughout the state to mark the moment. Later, she walked, leading a procession up to Netaji Statue in Red Road.
In his speech at Victoria Memorial, the Prime Minister tried to mark out ‘valiancy’, citing LAC and LOC and Rafale deal, and equating these with the valiant image of Netaji. He also spoke of ‘Atmanirbharta’ and how Netaji would have been happy with it. But, Modi’s projection of Netaji as a Bengali icon seemed to have peeved quite a few people in the state.
The Left Parties, including the Forward Bloc, the party started by Netaji Subhash Bose, observed the day through a dignified procession from Mahajati Sadan to Subhodh Mullick Square , where it was joined by leaders of the Left Front, who garlanded the Netaji’s statue.
Later in the evening, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member , Mohd Salim, in a press conference in Muzaffar Ahmad Bhawan, said the "PM’s projection of Netaji as a Bengal-centric icon is something stark in contrast, as he was one of the tallest national figures" .
Lashing out at the PM, Salim said: "Modi can be a neta (leader), but is not Netaji. He who keeps a beard is not Tagore,” adding that Netaji was among the strongest votaries of “non-divisibility of Bengal and of the country".
Salim pointed out that Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauj or INA consisted of people from every state and the slogan was rasied was ‘ Jai Hind’, which was “above religion”.
“What BJP and Modi did today, earlier Mamata had done that in numerous programmes. However, it is unfortunate that a Chief Minister in her own state is heckled in such a manner”, he added,