This Article is From Feb 01, 2021

"Faith": Nirmala Sitharaman Invokes Tagore To Begin Budget Speech

The fight between Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and the BJP has augmented into a battle over Bengal's icons and their legacies.

Nirmala Sitharaman's reference to Tagore comes ahead of the assembly elections in Bengal

New Delhi:

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today invoked Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in what was probably a first - a budget day speech. "I borrow the words of Rabindranath Tagore - 'Faith is the word that feels the lights and sings when the dawn is still dark'," the minister said, beginning her speech for a budget the country has placed its hopes on after a year made hugely challenging by a pandemic and a sputtering economy.

The reference to Tagore comes ahead of the assembly elections in Bengal - a state the BJP hopes to add to its bag in face of a huge insider-outsider debate kicked off by the state's ruling Trinamool Congress.

The political battle has augmented into a battle over Bengal's icons and their legacies.

In the run-up to the fiercely contested election, the BJP has extensively focused on the cultural icons of Bengal, including Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whose birth anniversary on January 23 was marked as "Parakram Diwas". Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Kolkata for the occasion.

Over the last months, the BJP has also made multiple references to Tagore - considered the cultural core of Bengal.

Repeated visits have been made to Visva Bharati - the university he founded -- by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the university recently.

The BJP has even used references to Tagore for its pushback against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. "The malice, arrogance, lies and tyranny that Mamata Banerjee is on -- it is not the culture of Gurudev Rabindranath and Swami Vivekananda. Not the culture of Subhas Chandra Bose and Syama Prasad Mukerjee, Not the culture of Bengal," party chief JP Nadda had said.

Today, Ms Sitharaman made special announcements for Bengal, including an allocation of Rs 25,000 crore for building highways, as part of its development plan for the state.