- PM Modi paid tribute to icons of Bengal and even attempted some Bengali
- Durga Puja reflects the unity and strength of India: PM
- The BJP made elaborate arrangements for the live viewing of PM's address
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to icons of Bengal and even attempted some Bengali as he addressed Durga Puja pandals on the opening day of the five-day celebrations in the state.
"Whenever the need was felt in India's history, Bengal has always led the way for India and shown the path. There have been many renowned people who have come from Bengal and have contributed immensely in guiding the nation is the right direction," PM Modi said as he opened celebrations of "Shashti", the first day of the celebrations, at a Puja in Kolkata's Salt Lake via video link.
"The festival of Durga Puja is a festival that reflects the unity and strength of India. It is also a reflection of the traditions and culture that comes from Bengal."
Reeling off the names of illustrious sons and daughters of Bengal, including freedom fighters, writers, artistes and others, the PM remarked: "If I continue to take the names of such Bengalis, the day will end but we won't run out of names."
The Prime Minister interspersed his praise for Bengal and Bengalis with an inventory of his government's schemes and how they have helped the state. "Women are the symbol of Maa Durga; we are working towards the empowerment of women through various policies and schemes," he said, referring to "Beti Bachao, Beti Padao".
He also delivered a warning for precautions against the coronavirus, especially with videos showing crowds in Bengal throwing caution to the winds. "I urge everyone to ensure distancing and wear masks during celebrations at all times," he said.
Many pointed out that the political significance of his Durga Puja speech could not be missed as the state hurtles towards election just months away.
The BJP made elaborate arrangements for the live viewing of PM Modi's virtual address. TV screens were put up in all the 78,000 election booth areas across the state.
Durga Puja is the most important festival of Bengal and offers a massive opportunity for public outreach.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, facing a tough challenge from the BJP as she eyes a third straight term for her Trinamool Congress in Bengal, has opened 200 pujas virtually and over a dozen in person in Kolkata city.
Last year, Home Minister Amit Shah's move to open a Durga Puja caused much controversy.
Over the last 10 years, Mamata Banerjee has made her presence at Puja pandals so strong that at some pandals in the past, the Durga idols looked like the chief minister, dressed like her and even wore the trademark hawai chappals.
The BJP, aggressively campaigning to topple Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, has been trying to break into the Durga Puja circuit, especially after the state government announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to puja committees.