Written by Arindam Gupta
The great sons of India, who hailed from the state of West Bengal, appear to be caught up in a contest. It all started with the attack on the bust of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar at the time of the parliamentary election, and, most recently, over the controversy at a ceremony to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Coincidentally, the present century has seen the emergence of a few politicians holding high positions in government, who love to project themselves at par with those great men, no matter if they have little idea of our freedom struggle or history.
A new culture of cut-out politics has also emerged in the state, unlike during the three-decade rule of the Left which had declared it was against projecting an individual. As the state heads into an assembly election, there is the anticipation of a tough fight between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress. But few would have expected the electoral battle to lead to unfortunate events like the breaking of the statue of Vidyasagar by miscreants in May, 2019. The ruling Trinamool blamed the BJP for the vandalism, but the state government did not produce any video footage of the incident to back its allegations. Rather, rebuilding the statue was turned into a high-voltage emotional event by none other than the chief minister of the state.
This time, the event at the Victoria Memorial could have remained memorable with the dedicated performance of dance, music and songs by a host of artistes. The prime minister, too, took it to a new height with his well-researched address. But in the midst of all these performances, the chanting of “Jai Shri Ram” disrupted the event, apparently for a while. The prime minister looked once at the chief minister only when the latter was accusing him as the organiser of the event of insulting a guest.
Probably, he was also clueless as to why he was getting accused, he himself being the chief guest of the event. If someone is to be accused, it is undoubtedly the unruly people who were standing in a queue on one side of the audience and, the chief minister, who for once could not rise beyond her position of the Trinamool chief. The standing position of those persons at the event could also raise serious questions about the special security which any such event, the prime minister attends, deserves.
Disregarding all constitutional decorum, the chief minister went on accusing the audience without addressing the PM first as the chief guest or the governor of the state or the other Union ministers present on the occasion. If the purpose of the section of audience was to tease the chief minister, they were immensely successful, although on camera some of them had denied any such intention. They knew that she also reacted badly on earlier occasions, too, with the chanting of “Jai Shri Ram”, which even led to the arrest of individuals.
This overreaction has made her a laughing stock, although the Bengali intelligentsia has stood by her. Some of them also questioned why the PM did not say anything on the incident or persuade the chief minister to speak. They were unknowingly arguing against themselves, interpreting the event as a family event of the PM instead of a government one.
The writer is professor of commerce, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore