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Business News/ Politics / News/  Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Ram Navami a political battleground for BJP, TMC in West Bengal. Here's how
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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Ram Navami a political battleground for BJP, TMC in West Bengal. Here's how

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Over the years, Ram Navami celebrations have grown significantly, with rallies escalating into political face-offs and even riots in West Bengal. Earlier, the state would witness major celebrations only during Durga Puja, Kali Puja, and Saraswati Puja religious festivals.

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Ram Navami is political battleground for BJP, TMC in West Bengal. Here's howPremium
Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Ram Navami is political battleground for BJP, TMC in West Bengal. Here's how

Ram Navami has once again emerged as a political battleground for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, as both parties gear up for celebrations amid heightened tensions ahead of Lok Sabha Elections 2024. 

The All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is set to hold a Shobha Yatra marking Ram Navami in Howrah on April 17, even as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) secured court's permission  for a procession to celebrate the birth of Lord Ram in the same district.

TMC's rally will be led by Prasun Banerjee, the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Howrah Lok Sabha seat. Party's Jadavpur candidate Sayoni Ghosh and ministers Arup Roy and Manoj Tiwary will also attend the Yatra.

Follow Ram Navami 2024 LIVE Updates Here

Over the years, Ram Navami celebrations have grown significantly, with rallies escalating into political face-offs and even riots in West Bengal. Earlier, the state would witness major celebrations only during Durga Puja, Kali Puja, and Saraswati Puja religious festivals.

Political blame game

The Ram Navami celebrations often lead to a political blame game. On April 16, during an election rally in West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of plotting to halt the Ram Navami festivities in the state. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee responded by alleging that the BJP was planning to instigate riots in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

On April 17, Banerjee extended Ram Navami wishes to people while appealing for maintaining peace, prosperity and development for all.

The 42 Lok Sabha seats of West Bengal will vote in all seven phases beginning April 19. In 2019, TMC, which is in power in the state, won 22 of the 42 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 18 seats while the Congress won two seats.

Follow Live Updates on Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Here

The grandeur around Ram Navami started gaining momentum in West Bengal since 2016, coinciding with the rise of the BJP in the TMC-ruled state. The celebrations were marred by violence in 2017, 2018 and 2023.

BJP's rise

The BJP, seeking the consolidation of Hindu vote in the state, has largely been at the forefront of celebrations. However, the TMC, unwilling to cede ground to the saffron party, is not lagging behind either.

Apart from rallies, such as the one on Wednesday in Howrah, the TMC government has declared a holiday on Ram Navami this year for the first time.

The BJP crticised the state government's decision to declare Ram Navami a public holiday in the state "too late". Earlier, the saffron party had slammed the Mamata Banerjee government for not announcing a holiday on January 22, the day of the Pran Prathishtha of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

High security amid VHP Plans

The VHP and the BJP will be organising events across West Bengal, viewed by many as a demonstration of the saffron party’s strength.

“This year we are observing the Ram Mahotsav festival. On the day of Ram Navami on April 17, we will organize programmes or rallies across all gram panchayats and municipal wards in the state. We have lined up more than 5,000 programmes statewide," Sachindranath Singha, VHP's national assistant secretary was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Also Read: 'Would have pulled their tongue if…': Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee furious after ‘chor-chor’ shouts at her campaign rally

Many police stations across the state are on high alert to avert any communal tension ahead of Ram Navami celebrations. The administration in Hooghly, Howrah, Uttar and Dakshin Dinajpur, Asansol and Barrackpore — which have experienced communal tensions in the past during Ram Navami celebration— are also on alert, according to a report in the Indian Express.

Clashes had erupted in Howrah on March 30, 2023 and later spread to other districts – North Dinajpur and Hooghly. Ten people were injured in the violence.

‘Mixing politics with Religion’

The Trinamool Congress has reportedly urged the Election Commission of India to ensure that the religious festival doesn't become a platform for polarisation.

“We don’t believe in mixing politics with religion. The people of the state will reject the BJP's communal politics," said TMC spokesperson Shantanu Sen.

Also Read: PM Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath extend Ram Navami wishes: ‘After waiting for 500 years, Ayodhya…’

Political analysts say that the trend of Ram Navami celebrations gaining traction in the state has led to ‘competitive communalism’, with an advantage to the BJP,  the party whose prospects are buoyed by the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

"It will be an advantage for the BJP in West Bengal, as they are a seasoned player on this pitch of Hindu polarisation. The TMC might engage in competitive communalism, but the outcome remains uncertain," political analyst Subhamoy Maitra told news agency PTI.

(With PTI Inputs)

 

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Published: 17 Apr 2024, 11:52 AM IST
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