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How about a Swami statue, asks Trinamul

New Delhi, July 16: The Trinamul Congress today appealed for debt waiver and invoked Narendra Modi’s association with Belur Math to ask for a Sardar Patel-like statue of Swami Vivekananda, sending conciliatory signals to the NDA government.

“Sir, a sum of Rs 200 crore has been allocated to build a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. We have no objection to that. But why can we not build another statue for Swami Vivekananda?” Trinamul leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said in the Lok Sabha today, participating in the discussion on the general budget.

Sudip recalled Modi’s close association with Belur Math and how the Prime Minister had turned to Vivekananda during the election campaign.

“Shri Narendra Modiji also visited Belur Math Ramakrishna Mission which was established by Swami Vivekananda…. During the campaign also the BJP took the help of statues, pictures and idols of the Swami,” the MP said.

He continued: “It is heard, according to a press statement made by Shri Narendra Modiji, that he was once advised by the president of Belur Math to keep his beard and not shave it.”

These words are being seen as a conciliatory signal from Mamata Banerjee after the all-out aggression against the Modi government from the start of the budget session. Trinamul MPs had not only staged an acrimonious protest against the railway budget but had targeted the Prime Minister with slogans of “Shame Shame Modi.”

Nothing of the sort was seen today. The turnaround that started with the somersault on the bill seeking to legitimise the appointment of Modi’s principal secretary appeared complete.

Sudip flagged Mamata’s long-standing debt waiver demand but this too was done politely, along with the promise to “stand by the government” on right decisions.

“After long 10 years, a new government has taken over. It is not for us to criticise or accuse the government at every step. Wherever you go for a better step, we will stand by you,” Sudip said.

The Trinamul leader attacked the previous UPA government for ignoring Bengal’s demand to waive the debt and underlined that the people of the state were looking towards the Modi government.

“About nine crore people are looking forward to a waiver of the outstanding debt… We made this appeal before the UPA government also. They neither bothered about it, nor gave any importance,” Sudip said.

Trinamul insiders said the effort to build relations with the BJP-led government had come on the directive of Mamata Banerjee. The Triamul chief hopes a “constructive” role will fetch some relief to debt-stressed Bengal. If the BJP ignores the state’s demands, the Trinamul can then raise the “step-motherly” banner against the Centre to political advantage, Trinamul leaders said.

Seeking not to sound too soft towards the government, Sudip criticised the stress on FDI, particularly in defence.

“Arunji, BJP was known as a party of national feelings, national ethos and national sentiments. But I do not know how BJP has transferred itself to a party of total FDI. Is it a total change or shift of philosophy of the BJP?” he asked, addressing finance minister Arun Jaitley.