To appeal to the Bengali pride and counter the BJP's Hindutva agenda, the ruling Trinamool Congress is on a statue-building spree of Bengali icons and spread their message on "secularism and inclusiveness" ahead of next year's civic polls in the state.
The elections to 107 municipalities and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation are being described as the "mini assembly elections" ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.
"We have decided to erect statues of great personalities of Bengal in various parts of the state. They have preached secularism and inclusiveness for centuries. Their messages will be inscribed on the plaques of the statues," a senior TMC leader said.
From Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to Rabindranath Tagore, from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to Swami Vivekananda, from Raja Rammohan Roy to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar - statues of legendary figures will dot the state.
Statues of other Bengali revolutionaries, film personalities Uttam Kumar, Satyajit Ray and Rittick Ghatak, and footballers like Ghostho Pal and Sailen Manna are also coming up in various parts of the city.
Over 30 new statues have either been already erected or are in the process of being built in North Kolkata alone, while several more are being planned for the southern part of the city, the TMC leader said.
The building of statues is a part of the party's strategy to counter the BJP's "agenda of aggressive Hindutva".
"This is a part of our beautification drive. But at the same time, we also want to spread the message of secularism, social reforms and inclusiveness that these noted personalities of our state had preached and stood for. It is high time that we remember their teachings and follow the path shown by them," senior TMC leader and Deputy Mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation Atin Ghosh said.
"We have seen how the BJP vandalized the bust of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar in May this year. This only reflects their anti-Bengali sentiment and total disregard for our personalities," he said.
The cost of these statues range between Rs 20 lakhs and 30 lakhs and the money is being raised by local TMC leaders through crowd funding, party leaders said.
The BJP, however, wondered where the TMC's sense of respect for Bengali icons was all these years and claimed it would hardly yield any good result for the ruling party.
"The TMC is a sinking ship. It would hardly have any impact on their prospects. All of a sudden, just because they can sense their defeat (in the polls), they want to hang on to something," BJP state secretary general Sayantan Basu said.