Bengal BJP MLAs on Thursday vehemently opposed and voted against a resolution placed before the Assembly to mark the first day of the Bengali lunar calendar as Bangla Diwas or statehood day.
Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari threatened to scuttle the move by asking governor C.V. Ananda Bose not to approve it.
The Nandigram MLA said although Bengal's ruling party would pass the resolution in the House through its brute majority, the governor would never ratify it.
"We will tell the governor he should not sign the resolution. This resolution will not be approved. Paschim Banga Diwas was always on June 20 and that is when it should be observed," Adhikari said in the House.
According to the BJP, June 20 is the day when the state of West Bengal was established in 1947 and hence it should be observed as statehood day. They say Jana Sangh leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee was behind the creation of Bengal through his proactive intervention in the Assembly on June 20, 1947.
Many historians, however, say that on June 20, 1947, the Bengal Assembly voted to decide whether post-Partition the province should remain in India or go with the territory then known as East Pakistan. The voting was held in two parts.
Historian and former Trinamul MP Sugata Bose on several occasions referred to June 20 as a “sad footnote” in history. Bose, in an article for The Telegraph, had written that on June 20, 1947, East Bengal legislators voted by 106 votes to 35 against Partition, while the legislators of West Bengal voted by 58 votes to 21 in favour of Partition. After Partition, the Muslim-majority parts of Bengal province became part of Pakistan, while India got areas dominated by the Hindu population.
While there has been no precedence of observing statehood day in Bengal, Raj Bhavan's decision to observe June 20 as Bengal Day following a Union home minister circular sparked off a bitter debate. Governor Bose observed statehood day on June 20 this year, to which chief minister Mamata Banerjee voiced her fierce objection, including in writing.
To counter the "imposition" of a statehood day on Bengal, the Speaker appointed a committee with Bose as the adviser, which came up with a proposal to celebrate Poila Baisakh as statehood day.
A resolution to observe Poila Baisakh as statehood day was placed before the House on Thursday.
Adhikari set the tone of belligerent opposition to the resolution the moment he entered the Assembly premises on Thursday morning. He walked towards the statue of B.R. Ambedkar and put on a T-shirt that had Mookerjee's image and "June 20, Paschim Banga Diwas" printed on it. Similar T-shirts were distributed among all other saffron MLAs and they wore them inside the House.
Speaker Biman Banerjee requested Adhikari to remove the T-shirt only to be refused by the latter. Banerjee said rules of the Assembly allow the Speaker to request any member not to wear a particular dress in the House. But Adhikari kept saying it was his fundamental right to wear anything he wanted to.
Three BJP MLAs — Adhikari, Shankar Ghosh and Agnimitra Paul — accused Trinamul was trying to erase Bengal's history by not observing June 20 as statehood day.
They claimed Mookerjee had facilitated carving out West Bengal on June 20, 1947, and observing any other day as the foundation day for the state was an insult to him.
"I will ask the central government to declare June 20 as the Paschim Banga Diwas officially so that it can be observed nationally," Adhikari said, to instant opposition from Trinamul MLAs.
He and his party colleagues voted against the resolution.
Later, Adhikari led his colleagues in a rally to Raj Bhavan where they submitted a nine-page memorandum to the governor. He told journalists afterwards that the governor appreciated the BJP MLAs for upholding Mookerjee's views inside the Assembly.
"He (governor Bose) told us that the President of India Droupadi Murmu had tweeted from her official handle congratulating the people of Bengal for observing the Paschim Banga Diwas on June 20. He said no one has the right to insult the President," Adhikari said.