In Trinamool's Attack On BJP, Donald Trump's "Vivekanand" Gaffe

Top BJP leaders marched from Shyambazar to the Swami's house followed by many supporters waving small saffron triangles with 'Om' written on them.

The BJP has no right to display photos of Swami Vivekananda, Abhishek Banerjee said (File)

Kolkata:

Swami Vivekananda is yet another Bengal icon who got dragged into the political battle between the BJP and ruling Trinamool Congress.

His 159th birth anniversary began amiably enough with leaders of rival political parties streaming into the Swami's ancestral home in Central Kolkata to pay tributes.

But then Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the occasion and while he may have not been the intended target of a tag attack, Trinamool MP and Mamata Banerjee's nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, hit back.

"One of the worst enemies of democracy is political dynastic rule," the Prime Minister said in his televised address to the nation on the occasion of the birth anniversary. "It is a challenge that needs to be uprooted from the country. Those who win elections only on the strength of their surname, their days are numbered. But the disease of dynasty politics has not ended. Even now there are people, whose aim is to protect their family in the political field."

"This political dynasty in a democracy is a danger and paralyses the country. Political dynasts put 'me' and 'my family' first instead of the nation. It is also a big reason for political and social corruption," PM Modi said.

While leading a march in south Kolkata as tribute to Swami Vivekananda, Abhishek Banerjee ensured there were no party flags on display. But at the end of it on the dais at Hazra More, he launched a blistering attack on the BJP and the Prime Minister.

"The BJP has no right to display photos of Swami Vivekananda and hold a march. They have no right to take his name," Mr Banerjee said. "The kind of atmosphere the ruling party (BJP) has created in the country of hate and communalism only for their political gain is shameful."

"Last year on 24th February, they got Donald Trump to Ahmedabad and he couldn't pronounce Swami Vivekananda's name. He said 'Viveka Mundan'. And," Mr Banerjee said, referring to the prime minister, "the man who claims to be the biggest champion of Hindu dharma was sitting beside him and clapping. Nothing could be more shameful."

"Did you see a single BJP leader standing up and protesting that day? The Prime Minister should have snatched the mic from Donald Trump and told him how to pronounce this swami's name but he sat and clapped," Mr Banerjee said.

"Here, the BJP leaders are praising Modi because he got Trump to India but Trump is now gone -- there are a few small fries left. We will tackle them politically."  

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The BJP, in its Bengal campaign, has consistently referred to Abhishek Banerjee as 'bhaipo' or 'bhatija' or nephew. At a rally, the BJP accused Mamata Banerjee of trying to make him the chief minister of Bengal.

Abhishek Banerjee also attacked the BJP for building a Rs 3,500 crore statue of Sardar Patel but never considering a Subhash Chandra Bose or Vivekananda statue in Kolkata. "I have no complaints about that but Bengal will remember," Mr Banerjee said.

None of the political visitors who came singly or in large groups to Swami Vivekanand's ancestral house carried any political flag.

Top BJP leaders marched from Shyambazar to the Swami's house followed by many supporters waving small saffron triangles with 'Om' written on them.

But Trinamool leader, Dr Shashi Panja, was aghast. "Even in the morning I saw a huge number of people there, and also slogans. It was as if they were trying to capture Vivekanand, capture his legacy," she said, adding, "Where were they last year?"

BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta countered: "Vivekananda has always been very very central to the BJP and everybody knows that. The Trinamool is willfully trying to shift the goal post from a debate on its administration on its record in the past 10 years into a culture war."

Indeed, the culture war has been raging since Amit Shah went to Bankura in November and paid floral tribute to a statue that was mistaken for the tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda. During Mr Shah's December visit to Shantiniketan, Rabindranath Tagore's abode of peace, controversy erupted over a BJP tweet that said Tagore was born at Shantiniketan. Tagore in fact was born in Kolkata.

On 23rd January, the nation will begin the celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of Neta-ji Subhas Chandra Bose. The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister have already set up rival committees to plan events to commemorate the anniversary. Mamata Banerjee is on the Prime Minister's 85-member panel. But parallel celebrations seem imminent, and Netaji may become the next icon to get embroiled in the battle for the Bengal assembly.