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Regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

Bengal BJP seeks to cash in on Syama legacy

Workshops will take place in the weeks before Durga Puja

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya And Sandip Chowdhury Calcutta Published 06.08.19, 09:34 PM
Syama Prasad Mookerjee

Syama Prasad Mookerjee Telegraph file picture

The Sangh parivar has lined up a number of events across Bengal to create awareness of Syama Prasad Mookerjee and his opposition to the special status for Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to capitalise on what the RSS sees as general support for the abolition of the tag in his home state.

The RSS-BJP parivar plans to hold workshops, seminars and lectures to find a place for Mookerjee — the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP — in the pantheon of Bengali icons.

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The workshops will take place in the weeks before Durga Puja, after which political activities are usually put on hold in Bengal.

“This is a good time to seize the momentum. The Trinamul Congress is now a deer caught in the headlights, totally unsure of how to react to (Union home minister) Amit Shah’s move. We can make good use of this window to establish Mookerjee,” said a BJP state functionary.

“There is general happiness among majority of people with the Centre’s decision to abrogate special tag for Jammu and Kashmir. We should utilise the opportunity in Bengal,” he added.

A son of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee, the Jana Sangh founder was a barrister, academician, activist and lawmaker in pre-Independence India and the Union minister of commerce and industry in the first Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet.

Strongly opposed to the special status for Jammu and Kashmir, he fought the second Nehru government in and outside Parliament as the founding president of the Jana Sangh. In May 1953, when Mookerjee was 52, he visited Jammu and Kashmir for a protest against the special status and was arrested by the Sheikh Abdullah government. He died in custody around a month later, allegedly under mysterious circumstances.

“The upper caste, elite, bhadralok Mookerjee ticks most of the right boxes for being deemed a great Bengali icon. Yet, he has not found his place in that hall of fame. But the saffron camp’s attempt is not to get Mookerjee his due. It is with the objective of using his legacy in the current socio-political climate of the country to ensure deeper penetration in the state ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls,” said a political scientist.

He said the BJP wanted to use Mookerjee’s legacy to the hilt in Bengal where a majority of people still view it as a non-Bengali party that stands for the “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” vision.

“At the same time, it helps the BJP’s communal, divisive agenda. The majoritarian views of Mookerjee and his work with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Jana Sangh help bolster the core belief systems of the saffron camp. That is why he is so important to the RSS,” said the political scientist.

On Tuesday, BJP state general-secretary Sayantan Basu said the Narendra Modi government had fulfilled the dream of Mookerjee and it was the ideal time to go to town in his home state on his legacy. “We are planning to hold workshops and seminars in eight-nine towns across Bengal to talk about the contribution and role of Mookerjee, besides the historic decision of the Modi government,” said Basu.

Sources said the BJP’s intellectual cell, in collaboration with Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation and similar organisations, would organise the first phase of the events in Calcutta, Siliguri, Midnapore, Kharagpur, Bolpur, Durgapur and Asansol.

Sources in Trinamul admitted that the party had no idea how to address the Jammu and Kashmir issue. “There can be a lot of things to say regarding this, but can we, as a political party, go against the mood? Even from within the Congress ranks, so many voices are now being heard backing the Centre’s move,” said a Trinamul lawmaker.

“At the most, we can highlight the lacunae in the way it is being carried out. That is, pretty much, what we have been doing for the past two days,” he added.

The BJP believes this weakness of Trinamul can be exploited.

A BJP leader said think-tanks and “nationalist experts” on Mookerjee and the Jammu and Kashmir issue would participate in the events.

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