Battle of Plassey back in spotlight as TMC, BJP trade barbs over role of former Maharaja

The row erupted after the BJP released an audio recording of a telephonic conversation between PM Modi and BJP candidate Amrita Roy, the current head of Krishnanagar's former royal family.
TMC's Mahua Moitra and BJP's Amrita Roy.
TMC's Mahua Moitra and BJP's Amrita Roy.(PTI)

KOLKATA: The high-profile constituency of Krishnanagar in West Bengal's Nadia district where the TMC's Mahua Moitra is seeking re-election has been mired in a controversy dating back to 1757.

The latest row erupted after the BJP released an audio recording of a telephonic conversation between PM Modi and BJP candidate Amrita Roy, the current head of Krishnanagar's former royal family. In the conversation, PM Modi praised the former Maharaja as a great social reformer and a great son of India. The TMC hit back by denouncing the Maharaja, claiming he was a stooge of the East India Company and a betrayer of the nation.

Dredging out the history of the royal family, the TMC's Kunal Ghosh alleged that Raja Krishnachandra Roy who ruled from 1728 to 1783 had helped the British when Siraj-ud-Daulah was fighting against British rule.

"History says the royal family of Krishnanagar helped the Britishers when Siraj-ud-Daulah fought against the British. It's quite obvious that (Veer) Savarkar's party, which is responsible for the killing of Mahatma Gandhi, would nominate someone from a family, which supported the British. On the other hand, Mahua Moitra is fighting against corruption in the country," Ghosh said, taking a dig at the BJP.

Roy dismissed the allegations, saying they were "false". "This is something that I think every Bengali and every Indian will agree that whatever is being told about my family is entirely false. The allegation is Raja Krishnachandra Roy had sided with the British. Why did he do that? It's because of the torture of Siraj-ud-Daulah," she said.

"If he had not done that, would Hinduism have survived here? Would Sanatana Dharma have survived? No. Then, he would have been transformed into another identity. If that's the case, why can't we say that the Maharaja saved us from an anti-communal strike," Roy said.

TMC's Mahua Moitra and BJP's Amrita Roy.
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Moitra bagged the Krishnanagar seat in 2019. However, she was disqualified as an MP last year in the cash-for-query case.

Historian Anwesha Sengupta who teaches at the Institute of Historical Studies in Kolkata says it was during the Battle of Plassey that the East India Company, under Robert Clive, defeated Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent ruler of Bengal. Subsequently, the British began their exploitation of Bengal, gradually expanding their influence to other parts of the country.

In the Battle of Plassey, Clive’s forces got support from the likes of Kolkata-based rich traders Jagat Seth, Umichand and the Maharaja of Krishnanagar Krishnachandra Roy. He was a zamindar but the East India Company bestowed upon him the title of Maharaja. It is widely held that he started the lavish celebrations of Durga Puja to please the ‘Company’.

During the conversation with Roy, the moment Modi mentioned that she was carrying forward the legacy of Maharaja Krishna Chandra, she complained, “They (opposition) are criticising my family. They are saying he sided with the British and are calling our family a traitor. They are not saying how much land he donated and did so many other things. They are not saying why he did it (colluding with the British). So, I said that had he not done so our Sanatana Dharma would have been finished. Is it not so?”

To this, Modi said, “In our childhood, we used to be taught about Krishna Chandra Roy’s social reforms work and developmental work and Bengal’s model of development. But the people who indulge in vote bank politics will keep bringing baseless allegations and dig out what happened 300 or 200 years ago to defame so that they can hide the evils of current times.” He then advised her to ignore the critics.

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