Despite assurances to the contrary, armed Ram Navami rallies were taken out by the VHP throughout West Bengal on Saturday and Sunday.
Though touted to be ‘apolitical’, the rallies, being held ahead of crucial polling dates in West Bengal, saw participation of BJP candidates and cadres in large numbers. Sometimes armed, the BJP candidates made most of these quasi religious events by making political hate speeches and targeting the ruling TMC. Here’s what BJP’s state chief and candidate for Medinipur constituency, Dilip Ghosh said, “This country belongs to Lord Ram. No one can stop us from remembering/worshiping Ram. We are carrying swords and maces to fight against those who are trying to destroy the culture of Bengal. This will be used against those who are torturing the innocent people in Bengal. Aren’t they (TMC) doing politics in the name of Allah?” He was also seen showcasing his lathi skills in Kharagpur. Ironically, this is what Pratap Banerjee, the state BJP general secretary said a few days ago, “We are not organising Ram Navami rallies here. However, our workers and leaders are free to attend such rallies, which will be taken out by other outfits. We are now focused on the elections.”
In Raiganj, which goes to the polls on April 18th, the BJP in-charge of West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya was seen in a VHP Ram Navami rally with the BJP candidate, Debashree Choudhury.
In Barrackpore, Arjun Singh, the BJP candidate was seen with arms at a Ram Navami rally. The same scene was repeated by Locket Chatterjee in Hooghly who at the 2018 Ram Navami rally had said "The main purpose of the rath yatra is to restore democracy in West Bengal. We have said this earlier too that the heads of those who try to stop the 'rath yatra' will get crushed under the wheels of the chariot." In North Kolkata, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha was seen in a Ram Navami rally displaying the lotus symbol prominently.
Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee said "The BJP is misleading the people in the name of religion. Ahead of elections they are using it as a tool to divide the masses in Bengal. The culture of Bengal never supports the politics of violence. They are taking out rallies with swords and mace." She further criticized the BJP for ‘selling religion’ for the sake of getting votes. Ironically, the candidates of the TMC were also seen organising and participating in Ram Navami rallies across the state. From Dibyendu Adhikari, candidate from the Tamluk constituency to the Raiganj candidate Kanaia Lal Agarwal many senior TMC leaders and ministers were seen at Ram Navami rallies.
The participation of BJP and TMC candidates in Ram Navami rallies and their use of that platform to make political statements has escaped the censure of the election commision for now. But this blatant disregard of the principle of secularism surely doesn't bode well for the people of West Bengal.