In West Bengal, “double engine sarkar” is the BJP's latest slogan to woo voters in the run up to the Assembly elections. A BJP government each in the state and at the Centre will spur growth, so vote BJP, the logic goes. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, has, however, hit back now. Besides this one, he has also targeted “Jai Sri Ram”, with some inadvertent help from state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh, elevating her to the status of Goddess Durga, Bengal's reigning deity and the slayer of demons.
“Bengal needs a double engine Sarkar for real growth and real development,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said at his first election rally at Haldia on February 7. Only four days later, visiting Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “A double-engine sarkar will turn Bengal into Sona Bangla in five years.”
This past weekend, Mr Banerjee, who is also a Trinamool MP, returned fire saying, “To beat Mamata Banerjee's single engine, BJP is having to deploy 500 engines. A five-foot two-inch tall woman, to counter her, you are getting leaders from Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh. And you say double engine?”
Saturday's taunt was well timed. Mr Shah was in Bengal on Thursday and is expected to return this Thursday. The Prime Minister was in Kolkata on February 7 and will be here again next Monday. BJP President JP Nadda has gone back to Delhi after three extended visits in two-and-a-half months. Dozens of other BJP bigwigs have been flying in and out of the state.
Speaking at Kulpi in his Diamond Harbour constituency, Mr Banerjee attacked the Union Home Minister for his “Jai Sri Ram” taunt at the Chief Minister made on Thursday. “By the time elections are over, Didi will be saying ‘Jai Sri Ram' herself,” he had said in Cooch Behar, questioning her “allergy” to the slogan.
Mr Banerjee's comeback: “Will people from Gujarat come and insult Bengal's daughter? Amit Shah has said Mamata Didi will say ‘Jai Sri Ram' by the end of elections. I am saying, we will make sure you say ‘Jai Siya Ram'. I promise.”
“Jai Siya Ram” is a greeting that salutes both Lord Ram and his wife Sita, unlike the BJP's favourite. Trinamool has been claiming this was the original that the BJP had turned into a “muscular” “Jai Sri Ram”, underlining the party's lack of respect for women.
“You will have to learn to respect women,” Mr Banerjee said, adding, “In Bengal, we respect women like the Goddess Durga. We call our daughters ‘ma' (mother). This is the culture of Bengal and you will be forced to learn it.”
Mr Banerjee's sharpest barb, however, was saved for BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh who publicly pit Lord Ram against Goddess Durga, praising his lineage and ancestry while wondering where Ma Durga had come from.
“What audacity! To say Devi Durga's ancestry is not known, that nobody knows her!” Mr Banerjee said. “Remember her battle with the asuras? Thousands of demons on one side, Ma Durga alone. Here, too, Mamata Banerjee on one side, thousands of BJP leaders, all ranged against her. Mamata Banerjee, like Ma Durga's shadow. Remember Mahishasur Badh? The slaying of the demons? Now, Delhi's demons will also be slayed.”
The BJP is yet to respond to Mr Banerjee's comments. Both are treading on quick sand, dragging gods and goddesses into the battle for Bengal. A faux pas now could prove costly.