Modi, Mamata cross paths in race to honour Netaji
KOLKATA, Jan 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and governor Jagdeep Dhankhar came together in a rare appearance at Kolkata's Victoria Memorial on Saturday when canvassing for elections due in a few months prompted all-out efforts to honour freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on the his 124th birth anniversary.
The Prime Minister inaugurated a permanent museum in Kolkata today dedicated to Netaji while Mamata also held a massive rally in the city to mark the occasion. The optics of both events are significant as election to the Bengal assembly is just months away.
The BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal are engaged in a tussle over the celebrations of Netaji's 124th birth anniversary. While Mamata led a 6-km march in Kolkata, from Shyambazar in the north to Red Road in the heart of the city, PM Modi presided over the inauguration of a permanent exhibition on Subhas Chandra Bose at the Victoria Memorial.
Hours before Modi arrived in Kolkata, Mamata attacked the centre for failing to declare the day a national holiday and build a memorial for the freedom fighter. "I protest the centre's decision to not yet declare Netaji's birth anniversary as a national holiday. You are building new parliament and buying new planes... why no memorial for Netaji?" the Chief Minister said.
Modi's event in the evening at Victoria Memorial was to see Usha Uthup perform Rabindranath Tagore's 'Ekla Cholo Re' along with a choir. A group of schoolchildren was to perform 'Kadam Kadam Barhaye Ja', a song which was composed as a marching tune for Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army in 1942. Singer Papon was to present a song titled 'Subhashji Subhashji'. The fourth song at the event is another patriotic song, 'Dhono Dhane Pushpe Bhora'.
West Bengal and the centre have already clashed over the declaration of 'Parakram Diwas'. Netaji's birth anniversary will be known as Parakram Diwas, according to the centre. The state government had requested the centre to declare it as 'Desh Nayak Diwas' as Rabindranath Tagore had bestowed the title of Desh Nayak on Netaji.
Mamata Banerjee's march in north Kolkata that began this afternoon is a show of strength and an effort to showcase the Trinamool Congress's efforts to portray itself as a party of Bengal, while it terms the BJP leaders who fly in as "outsiders".
"In respect of Netaji, the BJP does not want any roadblocks. This will be disrespect to Netaji. The state government is organising its own function. We don't want to debate this. In every home people blow conches on this day, this is not a political agenda," BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said.
Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee resigned from his post on Friday. He is the third minister to resign in the last six weeks. The first to go was Suvendu Adhikari and he has joined BJP. The second was Laxmi Ratan Shukla, cricketer turned minister of state for sports. He has not gone anywhere yet, nor has he resigned as MLA or from the party.
On a visit earlier in the day to Assam, which too will hold elections this year, PM Modi distributed land allotment papers to indigenous people and said, "...There are lakhs who did not have any documentation of their land. But now, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal ji and his government have worked to ensure that people get their recognition."
While the BJP is hoping to remain in Assam on the back of initiatives it has taken to develop the state, the party is looking to unseat the Trinamool Congress and is banking on PM Modi's campaign to swing votes in West Bengal. Home Minister Amit Shah landed in Assam ahead of PM's arrival.
The All Assam Students Union (AASU) on Friday took out a march over their demands, including scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The AASU is in favour of repealing the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, and implementation of a report by a committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which safeguards constitutional rights of indigenous people. -NDTV