KOLKATA: A year after she ordered against Durga Puja idol immersions on the day of Muharram, inviting charges of minority appeasement, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appears eager to placate the Hindu community in the state. Banerjee on Monday awarded Rs 10,000 each to 28,000 Durga Puja committees across the state, including 3,000 in Kolkata.
The move has prompted political analysts to believe The Trinamool Congress supremo is treading a path of ‘soft Hindutva’ to take on the BJP in 2019.
The Durga Puja committees will also be entitled to 23 per cent concession on electricity bills, up from 20 per cent concession last year. The CM also waived off the licence fees which the committees had to deposit with Kolkata Municipal Corporation and fire department before getting permission.
The additional burden that these measures will put on the cash-strapped state will be borne by the tourism, consumer affairs, self-help group and self-employment and home departments.
Mamata said district SPs had been asked to form coordination committees at the Durga Puja committees comprising representatives from all religions to ensure communal peace during the festival. “Some people try to foment trouble during the Durga Puja by spreading misinformation leading to communal violence. Please do not fall into their trap,” she said in a veiled reference to the BJP.
Accusing the state government of misusing public money, BJP national general secretary Rahul Sinha said: “She is doing this to make up for what she did last year. But people have neither forgotten nor forgiven her.”
Political analysts believe the latest announcements are an attempt to prevent the BJP from weaning away Hindu votes. “Mamata’s worries may be aggravated by BJP’s steady rise since 2016. It emerged as the prime opposition during panchayat elections despite allegations of massive rigging and violence. As has been the state’s political history since 1990s, panchayat polls have always reflected the mood of the people for the next Assembly elections as majority of the state’s population (68 per cent) is rural,” political analyst Sukhendu Banerjee said.
Mamata has also pitted “tolerant Bengali strain of Hinduism” against “aggressive Hindutva”. “While the BJP is seen playing ‘high Muslim growth rate’ and ‘Bangladeshi infiltration’ cards to woo the Hindus, the TMC is trying to portray the ‘syncretic Hinduism’. This might pay her off in next elections as large parts of the state have mixed populations where economic interests of Hindus and Muslims are intertwined,” political analyst Rajesh Kangsabanik said.