New Delhi: The TMC government in West Bengal will observe the death anniversary of BJP icon Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee on June 23, said officials.
Even as the BJP-TMC clashes continue in West Bengal, few can deny that the political dynamic in the state has been irrevocably altered by the rise of the BJP. The TMC government’s move to observe the anniversary of the man who founded the Bhartiya Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP is not accidental.
“The TMC has realized that Hindutva isn’t going anywhere and its attempts at trying to invoke a Bengali identity might not prove enough to counter this. So they are trying to project Mookerjee as a Bengali icon,” said an official.
A statement from the state government’s Information and Cultural Affairs Department on Friday said, “(The) state government will observe the death anniversary of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee on 23rd June at 11:30 am at the Keortala Burning Ghat.”
It added, “Shri Sobhan Deb Chattopadhyay… (Minister for Power and Non-Convention Energy) will offer floral tributes on the day at the memorial column of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee on behalf of the state government.” Chattopadhyay represents the Rashbehari Assembly in the South Kolkata Lok Sabha seat – the area that Mookerjee had once represented.
Mookerjee’s legacy has featured heavily in the BJP’s claims of having an integral link to Bengal over the decades. RSS founder KB Hedgewar’s stint as a medical student in Calcutta was greatly influenced by Bengal’s radical nationalists. His successor MS Gowalkar’s time at the Ramakrishna Math was a factor in his understanding of Hindu nationalism, as one characterised by ideas of service and renunciation.
It was on Hedgewar and VD Savarkar’s advice that Shyama Prasad Mookerjee became the president of the Hindu Mahasabha, after joining the organisation in 1939. Inducted into the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet as minister for industries in 1947, he resigned from the Hindu Mahasabha in 1948 and he would subsequently resign from the Nehru cabinet as well, seeking instead to form a political party to oppose Nehru. The RSS, at the time, banned after Mahatma Gandhi’s murder, was looking to form its own political front. This would culminate in the formation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangha (BJS), the BJP’s predecessor.
In the 1952 general elections, the BJS contested six of Bengal’s 36 seats, winning two seats and securing 5.59 per cent of the vote share. SP Mookerjee won from Calcutta South East and the party, buoyed by Mookerjee’s leadership and support from Hindu refugees, would continue to script impressive electoral performances. But after his death and BJS’s inability to offer political patronage to Hindu refugees, the party and Hindutva dissipated from the state.