Mamata irked by ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants at Netaji event, cancels speech

There has to be dignity at government programme, said Banerjee at the event attended by PM Modi.

Mamata
Rattled by the Bogtui incidents, Mamata Banerjee rushed to the village on Thursday to reach out to the victims | File Photo: PTI

Raising of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants during the 125th birth anniversary celebration of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial angered West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday, prompting her to decline delivering her speech in protest.

There has to be dignity at government programme, said Banerjee at the event which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Banerjee had not started her speech when the slogan was raised by a section of the crowd at the Victoria Memorial.

Stating that such “insult” was unacceptable, she said, “This is a government programme and not a political programme. There has to be dignity. It doesn’t behove anybody to invite people and insult. I won’t speak. Jai Bangla, Jai Hind.”

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The issue adds to the heated up political scenario of election-bound West Bengal, where a war-of-sorts had earlier erupted over christening Netaji’s birth anniversary as ‘Parakram Diwas’ by the Centre. Banerjee, chief of Trinamool Congress, was clearly not happy with the naming as her government wanted it to be named ‘Deshnayak Diwas’, in endorsement to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s links with the legendary freedom fighter.

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Netaji’s niece Roma Ray (91), too, had said that she believes that January 23 should be observed as ‘Deshnayak Diwas’. Ray is the daughter of Sharat Bose, Netaji’s brother. “There should be a national holiday on January 23 and the day should preferably be called Deshnayak Diwas because of its links with Tagore,” Ray told the media.

Earlier in the day, the chief minister led a six-km march through Kolkata and questioned why “outsiders” (a reference to central BJP leaders who frequent Bengal) want to call the day as ‘Parakram Diwas’. “I don’t understand the word ‘parakram’… I understand his (Netaji’s) ‘desh prem’ (love for the country). Netaji is a philosophy… an emotion… he believed in the unity of religions,” Mamata said as she embarked on the march.

“Why call it ‘Deshnayak Diwas’? Because Tagore gave him the title… because Netaji gave Tagore’s song recognition as anthem,” she said.

The CM tweeted that a university named after Netaji would be set up funded entirely by the state. It will also have tie-ups with foreign universities.

Earlier this week, the Centre drew barbs from Trinamool over naming of the day. “It should be Desh Prem Diwas. We believe Netaji deserves much better. We will observe this day on our own,” senior Trinamool leader Saugata Roy had said.

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Besides, Banerjee also criticised the Centre for abolishing the Planning Commission, which, according to her, was conceptualised by Netaji. She said India should have four capitals on a rotation basis and sessions of Parliament should be held in different locations in India.

The polls to the 294-member Bengal assembly are due in a few months in which Trinamool and BJP are the principal rivals. The Trinamool has suffered a series of desertions, starting with Suvendu Adhikari. On Friday, cabinet minister Rajib Banerjee quit his post (the third in the past few weeks) and is likely to join the BJP on January 31, reports said.

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