New Delhi: Days after West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee threw a political surprise by saying there were “many good people in the RSS”, most among her party colleagues stand by her statement.
Banerjee’s comments drew strong reactions from political parties such as the Congress, CPI(M) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi, who recalled her past comments in favour of the organisation.
BJP leaders have meanwhile said they don’t need “a certificate” from her on who’s good.
The RSS is the ideological fountainhead of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and given the West Bengal CM’s strong, vocal and sustained opposition to the party in power at the Centre in the past many years, her comments on the RSS raised many eyebrows.
Most among the West Bengal CM’s party colleagues insist, however, that she has always “respected” the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as an organisation that is “patriotic” in nature.
“There was a time when Indira Gandhi started touring temples. Mamata never had a double standard about RSS. She always maintained that RSS is a regimented and disciplined organisation. There are many honest people in the organisation,” senior Trinamool member of Parliament (MP), Saugata Roy, told ThePrint.
He added: “We may differ or disagree on the ideological front, but there is respect too. Mamata did not say anything wrong. The criticism that has been coming since yesterday is political in nature.”
Even among the party, however, some leaders felt it was “unnecessary” for Banerjee to have brought in the RSS in the conversation, while a few others speculated whether the West Bengal CM wanted to woo some “good and honest” RSS volunteers, who are “disillusioned” with the current BJP leadership.
Meanwhile, RSS functionaries themselves have dismissed her statement as an attempt at a balancing act to retain the support of Hindu voters in the state, political analysts too feel it has something to do with trying to do away with her “anti-Hindu”, “Muslim appeaser” image.
During a media address at Nabanna, the state secretariat, Wednesday, Banerjee said “Some people intimidate media houses using RSS names. RSS was not this bad earlier, and I believe, they are not bad now. There are many good people in the RSS. They do not support BJP’s misdeeds. One day they will come forward and speak against them (BJP).”
This is not the first time that Banerjee has said made a positive statement about the organisation.
In 2003, while sharing the stage with senior RSS functionaries during a book launch, Banerjee had called them “patriots”. RSS leaders meanwhile had hailed her as “Durga” of West Bengal — a reference to the Hindu deity commonly worshipped in Bengal.
The West Bengal CM is also said to share cordial relations with senior RSS functionaries, including its chief Mohan Bhagwat, and even some veteran BJP leaders, like former deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani.
She has also allowed many new RSS shakhas to come up in West Bengal since becoming CM in 2011.
A senior Trinamool leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Banerjee always kept the RSS channel “open”.
“There is a political calculation. Didi (the moniker Mamata is commonly referred to by) has got people’s mandate, and if you see the numbers, she does not need the support of any organisation to win elections. But, it is true that RSS has a base in the rural areas and Hindus trust them. To retain the support base, Didi needs RSS. She does not want to allow Communists to reclaim their ground in any district.” said a second senior Trinamool leader, requesting anonymity.
‘Reaching Hindus via RSS’
RSS functionaries, meanwhile, dismissed her statement as a ‘balancing act’ and a tool for “damage control”.
“She has been suffering from the guilt of allowing so many Hindus to be killed in post-poll violence (following the declaration of results of last year’s assembly elections in West Bengal). Many Hindu women were gangraped and her government stood like a silent spectator. She knows that the people will get back to her, if not today, but a few days later,” alleged Jishnu Basu, a senior RSS functionary in West Bengal.
He added: We sought her appointment after results were out, and Trinamool workers went on a rampage (a reference to last year’s post-poll violence). But she did not meet us. Elections come and go, but the damage she did to the Hindu society, the scars will never fade. And she knows that. We do not know what she means by saying good RSS and bad RSS, bad persons are not allowed to be a part of Sangh. She needs to understand that.”
Political analysts define her comment as an attempt at portraying the BJP as the “villain”, while maintaining cordial terms with the RSS.
“It is true that she has got a major mandate this election (2021 assembly elections). But nobody can deny that she still carries an image of (being) anti-Hindu. There is a perception that Mamata Banerjee appeases Muslims and treats them as a vote bank. The mandates for politicians are never over. And their statements cannot be seen as election specific,” said Saikat Sinha Roy, a senior political analyst and professor at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University.
He added: “These (Mamata’s comments) are loaded statements and will have far reaching consequences and impact. She still believes that RSS made a strong inroad in the Hindu society. The general elections are coming in one-and-half years (2024). Politicians think about the future. No political party except Congress wants to irk the RSS. We all know Pranab Mukherjee (late Congress leader and former President) too had visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Source: The Print