It was Mahalaya on Saturday, and for West Bengal, it marks the start of the festive season. But Durga Puja will be no holiday for the BJP and the Trinamool Congress. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did suggest a break from political acrimony for a few days, but the BJP did not oblige. Durga Puja platforms in the state are being used to launch attacks.
BJP working president JP Nadda did so on Saturday, and party chief Amit Shah will be in Kolkata on Tuesday. Far from a truce, Durga Puja has turned into a political battlefield ahead of the assembly election in 2021.
Although Mamata Banerjee did not name any political party, she seemed to appeal for peace while inaugurating a Durga Puja pandal in south Kolkata on Friday. "We don't do politics at this time of year. Dirty politics, conspiracies, I don't like people who do this. Play politics for the rest of the year but why not smile during the Pujas?" she asked.
But the BJP did not agree. At an event in the state on Saturday, Mr JP Nadda first performed the tarpan -- a Mahalaya ritual of prayers for the dead -- and prayed for 80 people the BJP claims were killed by the Trinamool Congress. And then he attacked its chief.
"It is jungle raj in Bengal. There is no democracy. People are getting killed but they cannot complain to the police about it. Their complaints are not registered," he thundered from a stage on the banks of the Ganga, where the tarpan was performed.
"Mamata Banerjee's time is over. She has nothing to offer to this state except violence," he added.
But Trinamool leader Firhad Hakim's retort was just as scathing. "Mr Nadda knows jungles well. Like the ones where rapists get away, victims are sent to jail and children die in hospitals because there is no oxygen," he said. "Let the BJP first fix their governments and then come talk about Mamata Banerjee's Bengal."
Dilip Ghosh, BJP MP and state BJP chief, would not let it rest. "When there is no democracy in Bengal, how can we take a holiday during Durga Puja? The people have to be protected from the lawlessness going on in the state, where Durga Pujas can be purchased for Rs 25 lakh or so," he said.
The reference to the "purchase" of Durga Pujas may have something to do with Amit Shah's imminent visit. He will address a meeting on the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Mr Ghosh said.
But he will also do something that has largely been Mamata Banerjee's preserve so far. He will cut a ribbon at a Durga Puja pandal in Salt Lake. The exact location is yet to be shared, perhaps for strategic reasons.
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