Mamata Banerjee appears to be shifting tactics as public mood tilts against her amidst the Saffron Surge in the state. It was observable when she finally met the protesting junior doctors who were on strike following mob violence against them and talked to them very gently and referred to them as ‘Lokkhi Chheley Meye’ (Sweet Boys and Girls) after initially threatening them.
Now, the West Bengal state government has decided to observe the death anniversary of the legendary Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, who has long been a Saffron Icon and neglected by ‘Secular’ parties due to his allegiance to Hindu Nationalism.
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It appears that Mamata Banerjee has realized that the perception of Trinamool being a ‘Muslim party’ is increasingly gaining traction among the public. The results of the 2019 General Elections amply demonstrated that there was great religious polarization that fuelled BJP’s rise in Bengal. While Muslims consolidated for Trinamool, Hindus did the same in BJP’s favour.
For a while, Mamata Banerjee tried to portray the BJP as a party of ‘Outsiders’. However, that didn’t appear to be working. Moreover, she accused the protesting doctors of being ‘Outsiders’ and working for the BJP while threatening them which further diluted the charge.
Now, that all else has failed, Mamata Banerjee as a sort of the last gasp appears to have decided that it will be a good idea to celebrate some of the Bengali cultural icons that the Hindutva camp respects. However, it is doubtful whether it will have the sort of impact she expects since, until the rise of the BJP, icons such as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee were completely ignored by the ‘Secular’ camp in order to protect their Muslim voter base.
Icons such as Sri Aurobindo, who are revered widely by Bengalis, still continue to be ignored by the secular camp due to their strong leanings towards Hindu Nationalism. And people notice these things.
The celebration of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee also reflects a great victory for the Saffron Camp. For a long while, Mookerjee remained a political untouchable among ‘secular’ politicians in the country due to his political inclinations. He is considered one of the ideological predecessors of the BJP. The observance of his death anniversary by Mamata Banerjee suggests that the BJP has been successful in fundamentally altering the political dimensions of India.
The Overton Window had been continuously shifting ever since Narendra Modi was elected the Prime Minister of the country in 2014. The next big shift came in 2017 when the Peethadheesh of Gorkahnath Muth, Yogi Adityanath, was appointed the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The nomination of Sadhvi Pragya from Bhopal Lok Sabha Constituency and the refusal to withdraw her nomination even after her remarks on Nathuram Godse was another big shift in the Window. And now, the celebration of Mookerjee by Mamata Banerjee clearly demonstrates the direction in which the country is headed in.