Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP today of playing Holi with "blood" and challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party chief Amit Shah to a competition in reciting Sanskrit mantras (religious chants). Lashing out at the BJP, which has often accused her of minority appeasement and questioned her religion, she said, "I want to say that my religion is humanity and I do not need lecture from others about religion".
"Worship does not mean only putting a ''tilak'' on the forehead. One must understand the meaning of the mantras. I challenge Modi-Shah to compete with me in chanting mantras," the Chief Minister said at a programme ahead of Holi.
"I believe in playing Holi with colours and a pure mind, unlike a section who believes in playing Holi with the blood of others... I do not need to learn the true meaning of communal harmony from a divisive force like BJP," she was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Ms Banerjee, one of the fiercest critics of the Narendra Modi government, had gone toe to toe with Centre over numerous issues, the last of which was the face-off between the state police and the Central Bureau of Investigation.
As one of the few non-BJP, non-Congress states in the country, Bengal ranks high on the wish list of Amit Shah for next year's general elections. The BJP chief has already handed a 22-plus seat target to the state cadre. Bengal has 42 parliamentary seats.
In Bengal for a government programme last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used the state's biggest festival, the Durga Puja, to launch a sharp attack on the Chief Minister. Referring to Ms Banerjee's embargo on Durga immersion ceremony in view of Ramzan processions in 2017, he said Bengal's biggest festival was in danger because of the Chief Minister's appeasement politics.
"They try to point fingers at me and say I do not allow puja to be conducted in Bengal. They should go and see how many ''mandir'' (temples) have been constructed during the TMC regime," Ms Banerjee said today, referring to the government's renovation and redevelopment programmes.