KOLKATA: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday expressed her discontent and declined to deliver a speech at an event to celebrate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary where 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans were raised in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial.
"I think the government’s programme should have dignity. This is not a political programme. I am grateful to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Culture that such an event has been organised in Kolkata. It (the slogan) doesn’t suit you to insult an invitee. In protest, I will not speak anything. Jai Bangla, Jai Hind," she said and returned to the seat next to Modi.
The awkward moment took place when the moderator of the event announced Bengal CM’s name as the next speaker. As Mamata Banerjee stood up and started walking towards the podium, some of the audience chanted Jai Shri Ram slogan and said they would not want to listen to her. Others among the crowd were seen pacifying those who raised the slogan.
PM Modi, in his speech, aligned his government’s initiatives with the Netaji's ideology and vision. He also compared the centre’s Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) vision with the ideology of Bose.
"Bengal had been Netaji’s workplace. He had a far-sighted vision. He wanted to build up Atmanirbhar Bharat. Today, India is heading towards the same goal. Netaji’s ideology now is in ground reality," said Modi, while addressing an audience of odd 1,000 people. The Centre is walking along the path shown by Netaji and implementing his ideologies, the PM said.
Netaji’s birth anniversary has become a political issue as both the ruling Trinamool Congress and its arch-rival BJP are trying to woo Bengalis by riding on their sentiment about the freedom fighter. Eyeing the same goal, Modi even likened her party’s Sonar Bangla slogan with Netaji’s dream.
"Netaji wanted to build a Sonar Bangla. Our aim is the same. We will build up his workplace like the same he wanted," said Modi without naming the TMC or Mamata Banerjee.
The Sonar Bangla slogan has become a political tool of the BJP to attack Mamata-led West Bengal government on the issues of alleged poor governance. Party’s heavyweights including Union Home minister Amit Shah and national president JP Nadda never missed a chance to promise that the party would turn West Bengal, which has allegedly witnessed no development during Mamata’s 10-year tenure, into Sonar Bangla within five years if Bengal’s electorates bring the saffron camp in power in the 2021 Assembly elections.
The PM even highlighted the central government’s success combating Covid-19 pandemic. "Had Netaji seen how India fought the battle against the pandemic successfully, what would have happened?" he asked.
Before coming to Victoria Memorial, Modi went straight to Netaji’s residence and visited the museum there. BJP’s national and state functionaries, including Bengal observer Kailash Vijayvargiya and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, wanted to accompany but they were not allowed by the Netaji Research Bureau.
"The PMO had included Modi's Netaji Bhavan visit this morning. I told them that we will welcome him as the Prime Minister only because today is Netaji’s birth anniversary. We also said that no political leader will be allowed with the PM," said Netaji’s grandnephew and chairperson of the research bureau.