BJP invokes Tagore in Bengal to counter pro-Hindi image

Modi recently quoted Tagore’s lines “where the mind is without fear” to take a dig at Banerjee for the alleged used of terror tactics by the Trinamool Congress (TMC). He said that neither Congress nor CPI(M) went by the ideals of Tagore as they blatantly resorted to intimidation tactics to cling to power. Picture courtesy Twitter

West Bengal has had its share of verbal duels between political heavyweights on various issues such as the celebration of Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti and chanting Jai Shree Ram, during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Latest icon to become a weapon in the political slug-fest is Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Usually, when he addresses rallies in Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a bid to tap into the Bengali sentiment starts his speech with one or two sentences in Bengali. However, he sprang a surprise when he raised the slogan of “Gurudev (Tagore) amar rahe” drawing loud cheers from the crowd.

The reference to Tagore is not just limited to slogans. Famous lines from his poems are being used by Modi and Banerjee to take potshots at each other.

Modi recently quoted Tagore’s lines “where the mind is without fear” to take a dig at Banerjee for the alleged used of terror tactics by the Trinamool Congress (TMC). He said that neither Congress nor CPI(M) went by the ideals of Tagore as they blatantly resorted to intimidation tactics to cling to power.

“Now TMC is least bothered about Tagore’s Tagore's idols,” said Modi.

The reason behind BJP’s sudden interest in Tagore can be attributed to the bard’s influence among people across the generations in Bengal, especially to the educated and culturally aware middle-class voters both in rural and urban areas.

Banerjee, who frequently quotes from Tagore and other renowned Bengali poets also hit back at Modi and BJP with the bard’s lines. The TMC supremo referred to Tagore's preference for Raksha Bandhan to counter the divisive tactics of the British. Accusing BJP of inciting riots between communities, she said that if Tagore were alive today he would have conducted Raksha Bandhan across the country to counter such divisive activities.

Even CPI(M) state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra recently quoted Tagore in one of the tweets to alert the people of the state against politics of polarisation.

“BJP’s leaning on Tagore is to counter the TMC supremo’s strategy of labelling them as a party of the Hindi heartlands,” Biswanath Chakraborty, a Kolkata-based political observer and faculty member of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati University, told DH.

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