Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today said in a Facebook post that she does not have a problem with the slogan Jai Shri Ram but the manner in which it is being used by BJP workers to "create unrest in West Bengal by mixing religion with politics". The clarification comes at a time when members of the opposition party have been increasingly heckling Trinamool Congress leaders -- even Mamata Banerjee herself -- by shouting the religious slogan in the wake of the ruling party's poor performance in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.
While the BJP won 18 seats across West Bengal, making a gain of 16 over the 2014 general elections, the Trinamool Congress only scored marginally better with 22. This has been seen as an indication that the state would witness even more closely fought battles between the two parties in electoral contests to come.
"I have no problem with political parties using any particular slogan in their rallies. Every political party has its own slogan. My party has Jai Hind and Vande Mataram, the Left has Inquilab Zindabad, but we respect each other," the West Bengal Chief Minister said in her post.
Mamata Banerjee said that while she also respects slogans invoking Lord Ram, she has a problem with the BJP using them in a "misconceived manner by way of mixing religion with politics". "This is a deliberate attempt to sell hatred ideology through vandalism and violence, which we must oppose together. One can fool some people sometimes, but cannot fool all the people all the time," the Facebook post read.
The Trinamool Congress chief claimed that the BJP's "campaign of hate" was affecting West Bengal -- the land of social reformers such as Ram Mohan Roy to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar -- in a negative manner. "It is high time that proper action is taken to restrain political workers from indulging in activities aimed at creating unrest, chaos and violence in the name of religion to divide the people," she said in the post, adding that there was a need to oppose the BJP's tactics in order to protect the country's secular character.
Later in the day, she changed her profile picture to a collage of various freedom fighters from the state and beyond along with the words Jai Hind and Jai Bangla inscribed in Bengali.
Mamata Banerjee faced off against BJP supporters shouting slogans of Jai Shri Ram on two occasions in May, the last such instance occurring on Thursday. She reportedly charged at them in fury, calling them "criminals" and "outsiders" and even drawing from a dialogue delivered by Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty.
On Saturday, three ministers of the Mamata Banerjee government were holding a meeting at a Trinamool Congress worker's house when a mob of BJP supporters began heckling them with the slogan. Yesterday, newly elected BJP legislator Arjun Singh claimed that the party would send "10 lakh postcards with Jai Shri Ram written on them" to the Trinamool Congress chief.
During an election rally in the Dumdum Lok Sabha constituency last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had alleged that youngsters in Bengal were being jailed for chanting Jai Shri Ram and Jai Maa Kali.