By Sushil Kutty
Whoever says West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was mocked and jeered with cries of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ spontaneously by the crowd at the Vande Bharat event at Howrah is lying through his gutka-stained teeth. This was a planned protest and meant to rile and humiliate her in the presence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Governor Ananda Bose.
That Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not on the dais was mere chance. And ‘Gutka’ because the perpetrators were Sangh Parivar activists of Bihari-UP origin. ‘Jai Shree Ram’ is not a cry that comes naturally to the Bengali tongue. That much is certain, give or take a couple of Doubting Thomas.
Opponents of the Bharatiya Janata Party are fed up of ‘Jai Shree Ram’. To Mamata Banerjee, ‘Jai Shree Ram’ is jarring to the ears. Her eardrums shriek when the Hindutva slogan breaks through the natural background sounds of everyday life and slays all other noise.
Why Mamata ‘Didi’ loses her hard-earned cool when ‘Jai Shree Ram’ rudely intrudes her reverie is not known. And the penultimate day of year 2022 was not different from all the other 2022 days when ‘Jai Shree Ram’ butted in to spoil her day.
This time it came on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost his 100-year-old mother. So, despite the provocation, Mamata ‘Didi’ kept her calm. The “high drama” witnessed at the Howrah Station annoyed the West Bengal Chief Minister and she refused the dais, choosing instead to sit with the audience.
In any case, the chief guest of the event, the grieving Prime Minister, wasn’t in the city to make a difference to the proceedings. The loud sloganeering was deliberately planted and came from a single block of the audience. This was an “invited crowd” and that made it “planned”, a conspiracy cooked up at some smelly BJP karyakarta meeting.
Those on the dais included Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, and Governor C V Ananda Bose. The two of them made a grand pretense to pacify ‘Didi’, but failed to shake her resolve that she had made there and then.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not budge from the chair she chose to sit in with the crowd as she watched Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually flag off the Vande Bharat Express that connected Howrah to New Jalpaiguri, Pradhan Sevak Modi’s ultimate commitment to duty-is-calling.
The plot to rile the Trinamool chief must have been hatched well in advance and not that morning or the evening before. The plot aim to humiliate the West Bengal Chief Minister in the presence of the Prime Minister, no less. Imagine if the ‘Jai Shree Ram’ was played out with her and the Prime Minister, both on the dais!
Definitely, this wasn’t ‘impromptu’. Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly Suvendu Adhikari was on the dais and if there’s one man both Mamata and the TMC cadre have a visceral hatred for, it is Adhikari, who deserted to join the BJP and then had the gall not only to contest against her in the assembly elections, but also the audacity to defeat her!
The sight of Adhikari on the dais wasn’t all by chance. Year 2022 was a continuation of 2021 for the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The electioneering that preceded the Trinamool victory was perhaps the worst in a 100 years. Modi’s taunting ‘Didi-O-Didi’, and cries of ‘Jai Shree Ram’, was intended to send Mamata sailing out into the sunset.
For the BJP’s political adversaries, ‘Jai Shree Ram’ is a communal war-cry. So much so, even the Western media have taken note of it, and ‘Jai Shree Ram’ is globally recognized as a measure of the “Hindu hate” that is prevalent in huge doses wherever Hindutva gains a foothold, or doesn’t gain entry to.
‘Jai Shree Ram’ has the power to bring Mamata cavalcades to a halt. And then when the string of cars come to an abrupt stop, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee steps out and orders the sloganeering perpetrators to stop the ‘Jai Shree Rams’. On December 30, Railway Minister Vaishnaw reasoned that the Chief Minister was shown “aadar” and “samman”, and that “karyakartas often mouth slogans.”
That is not the point. Ashwani Vaishnaw is not an ‘innocent’. And the BJP karyakartas knew exactly why they were “invited” to the Vande Bharat event. The fact that they were all bunched to one side of the audience spoke volumes of their combined intent.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had planned the grand humiliation of Mamata Banerjee at the Howrah Railway Station, a rail-head known to Indians wherever trains of the Indian Railways go. This wasn’t ‘Jai Shree Ram’ thrown at a speeding cavalcade, this was ‘Jai Shree Ram’ in her face, in the presence of the Governor and the Prime Minister. (IPA Service)