Mamata Banerjee attacks BJP pointing out Tagore stood for secular vision

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Kolkata: Even as a controversy broke out over what political rivals saw as an attempt to usurp the legacy of national poet Rabindranath Tagore by the BJP, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a speech here on Tuesday to mark the Nobel Laurette’s birth anniversary pointedly spoke about his secular vision and his use of Raksha Bandhan to promote Hindu-Muslim unity.

Analysts saw this as thinly veiled attack on the BJP and Home Minister Amit Shah who is in the city to pay homage to the poet at a function organised by a BJP supported cultural NGO. TMC has long accused BJP and its top leadership of promoting a political ideology opposed to the tenets of secularism.

“We hardly have the qualifications to define the Poet Laurette he is in our soul, he is the poet of the freedom movement, the poet who stood against communal disharmony, who stood for Raksha Bandhan (Tagore tied Rakhis on the wrist of Muslim leaders to unite them with Hindus in the struggle against the British move to divide Bengal in 1905),” Banerjee said.

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She also said that many things are being bandied about for the sake of electoral calculations such as that “Tagore was born in Santiniketan”.

“We should not think that for the sake of elections we can purchase someone spending Rs 5, or mistakenly we can say that Rabindranath Tagore was born in Santiniketan,” Banerjee said.

The TMC had two-and-a-half years ago gone to town with a screenshot of a tweet by BJP’s Bengal unit quoting the party president J P Nadda as making the claim as against the fact that he was born in Kolkata at Jorashankho Palace, where Shah had gone Tuesday morning. It has also long been claiming that the BJP hired people for its rallies and processions.

She also pointed to an incident which occurred a few years back when a bust of Bengal renaissance icon and educationist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was destroyed in a college in Kolkata during a BJP rally some years back, shocking people in the state.

“We should not think that one can vandalise the bust of Vidyasagar,” Banerjee said.

“Those who have Tagore in their hearts always feel him. If ‘Ravi-upasana’ (Rabindranath homage) is done from the bottom of your heart, then that will be the real homage to the real Rabindranath,” Banerjee added.

Earlier in the day, one of Banerjee’s lieutenant’s, state urban minister Firhad Hakim alleged that the BJP was trying to reap benefits from Tagore’s cult status in the state by organising a visit by Shah’s to pay homage to the poet.

Hakim said, “The BJP is trying to woo Bengalis before next year’s Lok Sabha polls. But Rabindranath Tagore should not be used for political reasons or electoral benefits.

He said that Tagore’s ideology of secularism, humanism needs to be understood. “You need to follow his path of tolerance, harmony among all religions, which the BJP does not,” the minister said.

CPI(M) state secretary Md Salim also alleged that both TMC and BJP were trying to use Tagore politically.

“Today those who are playing with religion, are trying to use Tagore for their divisive politics. Tagore was against all this. Neither BJP’s nor TMC’s ideologies match with that of Tagore,” Salim told reporters.

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( With inputs from )

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