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BJP finds its 'face' in Bengal – Syama Prasad Mookerjee

BJP finds its 'face' in Bengal - Syama Prasad Mookerjee

With less than a year to go for the West Bengal elections where the BJP hopes for "poriborton", the biggest roadblock it faces is a lack of a credible leader in the state. Now, it seems that debate is put to rest till the elections are over, with the BJP seemingly unanimous with going ahead with Jan Sangh founder and a fellow Bengali – Syama Prasad Mookerjee, to counter Trinamool Congress' Bengali card and yet stay on course with its nationalism base.

No wonder then, that a nearly seven-decade-old book, focusing on Mookerjee's death in mysterious circumstances, has been resurrected this year, just ahead of the 2021 Bengal assembly polls. Sangh insiders of the Bengal unit says that this is not just a book but the brand of Mookerjee, which is re-launched. The message is clear – to educate Bengalis, particularly the younger generation, of a leader who paid with his life in his pursuit to unify Jammu and Kashmir with India and has since, been pushed out of popular Bengali consciousness.

Anirban Ganguly, who heads the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, admits: "Bengalis of my generation used to heatedly debate about Mookerjee. But today's generation may not be as aware of him. The book will help them reconnect with a Bengali personality who has been the tallest since Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's disappearance."

After decades in the cold, "Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: His death in detention, A case for enquiry", first published in 1953 in Bengali and English, will be relaunched by BJP President J.P. Nadda himself. Ganguly himself has written a forward in the book, which was written by Uma Prasad Mukherjee, the Jan Singh founder's brother.

The goal is simple – to counter TMC's 'Bengali card' that it is playing against the BJP in the state and corner it further for its association with the Congress by suggesting a foul play in the death of one of Bengal's tallest political leaders under the leadership of then Prime Minister Jawaharal Nehru.

"Rahul Gandhi keeps talking about RSS's responsibility in killing (Mahatma) Gandhi. The court has cleared it, various commissions too have done the same. But what about enquiring Mookerjee's, a fellow Bengali's, mysterious death under the watch of his own great grandfather? There are so many unanswered questions about why no oxygen was provided, why no ambulance was arranged, why the existence of his diary was denied," argues Ganguly.

The symbolic significance of Mookerjee is huge given many credit him for the creation of West Bengal, as we know today. A minister in Nehru's cabinet between 1951 and 1952, it was he who gave the call of 'Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan aur do nishan nahi chalenge' (In one country, two different constitutions, leaders, and symbol cannot function), opposing Article 370 in Kashmir. His suspicious death occurred when he was en route to enter J&K."

The BJP has made steady progress in the state since the Panchayat elections where it snatched Purulia despite a violence-ridden poll that forced the Calcutta High Court to allow filing nominations through WhatsApp. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP stunned the Trinamool by getting 18 seats, a jump of 16 seats from its previous poll. All this while, the BJP was riding high on Hindutva and nationalism to counter TMC's alleged "minority appeasement".

But in the faction-ridden Bengal unit, what BJP lacked was a face who could counter Mamata Banerjee's "North Indian" charge against the party. It was the vandalisation of Vidyasagar's statue by miscreants, during Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata, before the last phase of Lok Sabha election in 2019 that helped Banerjee bring the "anti-Bengali" charge against the saffron party. BJP didn't win a single seat in the last phase, despite a stunning performance otherwise. To put things into context, in the 7-phase election, BJP didn't score a duck in Bengal in any other phases. It was blamed on the hurt Bengali sentiment that seemed to have punished the BJP in the last phase.

After the election, the BJP held multiple brainstorming sessions in Kolkata and New Delhi alike where it decided it needs a face to counter the "anti-Bengal" image. Who better than the man who founded the Jan Sangh and who championed the cause of the Hindu refugees of Bengal?

Does the relaunching of 'brand SP Mookerjee' do that? "The book will establish a connection with Bengalis who aren't that aware of him. Bengalis must realize here was a leader who could have led them to much greater glory in post independent India, but was done away with," claims Ganguly..