New Delhi: In a bid to curtail the image of Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement politics, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its political mentor I-PAC have carefully crafted a “soft Hindutva” policy for Banerjee for the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections.
Unlike what was witnessed of the TMC in the 2016 Vidhan Sabha and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been seen visiting multiple temples over the last few months.
In the last three months, Banerjee has visited more than 25 temples in West Bengal and have offered pujas in those temples. In Nandigram alone, before she submitted her nomination to contest the upcoming polls from the constituency, she had visited at least 19 temples and have offered pujas there, while visiting just one mosque.
In Nandigram, she was seen visiting Shiva temple, Kali temple and also temples of local gods and goddesses in the area and offering her prayers. In a stark departure from Banerjee’s classic style of politics, she was seen taking part in the rituals of Satya Narayan puja that she held in her home in Kalighat soon after the Election Commission declared the dates for the West Bengal Vidhan Sabha elections last month. The puja was also live streamed on her official social media accounts.
Earlier, Mamata Banerjee could often be seen participating in Iftar parties during the month of Ramadan. However, this election, she has not visited any prominent mosque so far; she has also been deferring her visit to the Furufura Sharif for some time now.
Not only this, Banerjee has been seen repeatedly chanting Chandi Path, Durga mantra and Saraswati mantra at the end of each rally that she has been holding across Bengal, to put a message across that she is no less of a Hindu.
Banerjee has also been repeatedly reiterating that she has been born to a Brahmin family and that she also practices Hinduism and knows Hindu rituals and cultures much more that the BJP, whom she has termed as an “outsider” in Bengal.
Last year, the Mamata Banerjee government had also introduced a monthly stipend of Rs 1,000 for all “purohits” (pandits) in Bengal.
The Mamata Banerjee administration, however, had been giving a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 to all Imams and Muezzins of Bengal’s mosques since the TMC came to power in 2011 in the state.
The change of strategy of Mamata Banerjee and her TMC happened after the takeover of TMC’s campaigning strategy by I-PAC. Sources in the I-PAC said that Banerjee has started to visit temples and chant Hindu mantras repeatedly after a thorough discussion was done with Prashant Kishor and the TMC top leadership to counter the BJP’s push for consolidation of Hindu votes in Bengal. “The 2019 Lok Sabha polls in a way gave away the fact that Hindu consolidation has happened in Bengal which has befitted the BJP in the state. It had to be countered and the image of Banerjee as someone in a bid to appease the minority community had to be shed. The constant anger of Mamata didi over the Jai Shri Ram slogan has not gone down well with a large section of the voters. This had to be changed and Mamata Banerjee is a Hindu and a Brahmin girl. She is also a devout Hindu and this had to be portrayed out loud. Mamata Banerjee will be visiting more temples soon after she recovers from her injury. She also has knowledge of Hindu mantras and can often be seen chanting them. This will continue in every public meeting or rally of hers,” a source from I-PAC told this correspondent. However, Banerjee has come under severe criticism for making several mistakes in the mantras she has chanted.