When West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took to stage to address a public rally during an event held to commemorate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’ 125th birth anniversary celebrations in Victoria Memorial, “Jai Shri Ram” slogans were raised by the public leading to an irate Mamata refusing to speak. On 20 February, in Birnagar in District Nadia in Bengal, senior All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) leader, and renowned dramatist, filmmaker, writer Bratya Basu Roy Chowdhury, known as Bratya Basu, in a recent public rally, chanted “Jai Shri Ram” slogans.
It was possibly the first time in the political history of West Bengal that a key TMC leader raised this slogan at a public rally. But is this political anachronism? No! This was a new twist in the electoral politics of 2021. Bratya Basu crying “Jai Shri Ram” was rather a call for defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.
He said, “Jai Shri Ram, cast your votes for Mamata Banerjee.” He then said, “Jai Shri Ram, Mamata Banerjee will come back! Again, Jai Shri Ram, vote for none but Mamata Banerjee, Jai Shri Ram get rid of BJP from Bengal. Jai Shri Ram, it is Trinamool who will get back in power at Nabanna.”
But why did Basu do it? It goes without saying that BJP’s innate ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogan has become a major political issue in Bengal. BJP leaders are stating that it is their victory that they have finally managed the opposition TMC to chant the same slogan.
But Trinamool leader Sougata Ray said that it was not a political slogan, but the reality lies within the ambiguity of the slogan being apolitical but being utilised to fulfil the same. Basu laid emphasis on the apolitical perspective of the slogan that Ram is the lord of every human and there stands no copyright of BJP on this. Ram lies in our culture and we are free to take his name.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when BJP began with their slogan out loud, Mamata Banerjee snapped at it on several occasions, calling it a political taunt used for just humiliation. During this one time, she got down from her car when she heard “Jai Shri Ram” slogans and confronted those who shouted it. BJP later took this issue up and well, ended up with 18 Lok Sabha seats in the states.
Although recently, rather than reacting sharply to the Jai Shri Ram slogans raised while she was supposed to give a speech at the Victoria Memorial, Mamata didn’t desert the event, but in protest refused to give her speech. Later She had clarified that not just the slogans but there were slogans hailing Narendra Modi as a BJP leader as well. She, therefore, refrained herself from speaking as the ambience was not it would not have been a respectful enough gesture towards the anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
However, it seems that Trinamool Congress is now changing its strategy — Mamata said that she would prefer “Jai Siya Ram”, which includes the name of Goddess Sita — signifying the empowerment of women, which BJP doesn’t include in their slogan. Mamata has strong women vote bank as well; the strategy is to pluck the needle with the needle. Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool leader Abhishek Banerjee said that BJP should go by the slogan “Jai Sia Ram.”
One must not avoid the existence of another business rather one should start the business right next to the existing one. Only by comparison and making a better power statement, one business can supersede the other. Hence, it is unwise to hide away and ignore the “Jai Sri Ram” politics. In this age of social media, it is better to accept it and improvise by opening up the chances for a new outlook with a better strategy, which Mamata is actually doing.
A long time ago, Communists used ‘Long Live Revolution’ as their slogan after the end of every speech; from Jyoti Basu to Saroj Mukherjee and Buddhadev Bhattacharya, this was their customary slogan. Arun Jaitley once told me when Uma Bharti was the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and he went to give a speech in the Bhopal rally, he gave a speech full of hard facts and inputs on the economy, GDP and factual details but there was no applaud. But when he ended his speech and chanted ‘Jai Sri Ram’, the entire crowd erupted in applause.
Interestingly now the debate is between BJP’s ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and TMC’s ‘Jai Siya Ram’. So “Jai Sri Ram” is BJP’s mantra which charges up the crowd, gives strength to the workers but is it applicable for Bengal too? Yes, and the result was visible in the 2019 elections, but now TMC has accepted the fact and in-fact instead of disrespecting and getting annoyed about the slogan, introduced a new strategy which seems to be working now.
BJP claimed that the party had bent Mamata Banerjee but for her, it is a counterstrategy. However, who will reap the dividend out of it will be seen in the months to come.