Kolkata: The name and lines of Rabindranath Tagore took centre stage in battleground Bengal on Thursday as politicians like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vied with each other during the Lok Sabha poll campaign in invoking the bard on his 158th birth anniversary.
In a bid to establish a better connect with the people of Bengal, leaders of opposing political outfits talked of Nobel laureate Tagore’s unforgettable contribution to Bengali literature, recited lines from his memorable poems and hailed him as an icon of Bengal’s cultural conscience.
Addressing a rally in Bankura in Bengal’s tribal belt, Modi paid tribute to Tagore by offering flowers at his portrait and beginning the speech invoking his name. Modi, who has repeatedly accused the Banerjee-led Trinamool government of tarnishing Bengal’s image as the cultural capital of the country and claimed that if voted to power the saffron outfit will bring back the state’s “glorious past”, requested the crowd at his rally to chant ‘Gurudev Tagore Amar Rahe’ (Tagore be immortal) before beginning his speech.
It has been an age-old custom to celebrate Tagore’s birthday as per the Bengali calendar. Before Modi took the dais at Bankura, BJP national General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya requested the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly to present Tagore’s composition to mark the day. Ganguly regaled the audience by singing a few lines of Rabindra Sangeet “Onek Diyecho Naam Amay, Amar Baashona Tobu Purilo Na”.
The lines in Bengali talk about unfulfilled desires. In his other election rally in Purulia, the Prime Minister greeted people on the occasion and paid respect to Tagore. “On this day, I remember Gurudev and pay him respect. I feel proud that three big schemes (Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana and Atal Pension Yojana) were launched from the land of Bengal on Rabindra Jayanti (Tagore’s birth anniversary),” he said adding that the schemes launched by his government are providing security to 21 crore poor people of the country.
Trinamool supremo Banerjee, who often quotes Tagore and other Bengali poets during her speeches, did not miss the chance to remember the wordsmith. Addressing a public meeting in Bankura town, not far from Modi’s rally, Banerjee said the land of Bengal is like “pure gold” as it has given birth to stalwarts like Tagore and Kazi Nazrul.
“Paying my utmost respect to Tagore I want to say a few lines… ‘Amar Matha noto kore dao he tomar choron dhular tole’… (Bow down my head in respect at your feet),” she said.
Banerjee said it was Tagore who started Rakhi (Raksha Bandhan), a Hindu ritual celebrating the brother-sister bond to stop violence and riots during that time and urged people to follow his ideology of togetherness.
In an attempt to win political brownie points over its rival, Banerjee’s party was quick to point out factual mistakes made by the Bharatiya Janata Party regarding Tagore.
In a video, standing outside Tagore’s birthplace Jorasanko Thakurbari (the sprawling ancestral house of the Tagores at north Kolkata’s Jorasanko) Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien slammed BJP President Amit Shah for mistaking Birbhum as Tagore’s birthplace and said it was an insult to Bengal.
“Amit Shah in one of his speeches had said ‘Tagore was born in this auspicious land of Birbhum’. These examples show how the BJP is clueless about Bengal,” Brien said.