A month after the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalised when Amit Shah was campaigning in West Bengal during the Lok Sabha elections, chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday unveiled a bust of the social reformer at a Kolkata school. The bust will later be put up at the Vidyasagar College, where the original statue was vandalised.
She also unveiled an 8.5-ft pristine white fibre-glass statue of Vidyasagar in the courtyard of the college.
Speaking at the event, Banerjee accused the BJP of trying to disrupt Bengal's culture. "It doesn’t end at breaking a statue. Are they trying to disrupt the culture of Bengal? Bengal is not Gujarat," she said.
After unveiling the bust near Hare school, which was then transferred to Vidyasagar College, Banerjee said a total of 10 people were killed in post-poll violence in the state and eight of them belonged to her party — the Trinamool Congress. The other two are BJP supporters, she said.
"Every death is unfortunate. I will ask the chief secretary to provide assistance from the disaster management fund to the families of all the 10 deceased," she said.
Clashes between workers of the Trinamool Congress and BJP rocked Bengal during the Lok Sabha polls and on May 14, during Shah’s roadshow, the bust of the reformer was vandalised. The incident not only led to a political slugfest, with both the parties accusing each other of resorting to violence to win elections, but also led to the cancellation of campaigning.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to install a "grand statue" at the same spot, while blaming the TMC for the desecration. "We saw hooliganism by TMC workers again during Bhai Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata. They vandalized Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's statue. We are committed to Vidyasagar's vision and will install his grand statue at the same spot,” he said.
However, his offer was rejected by Banerjee, who said the state had enough money to put up a new statue. "Modi has promised to rebuild the Vidyasagar statue in Kolkata. Why should we take their (BJP's) money, Bengal has enough resources,” she had said. She had also claimed that vandalising statues was one of BJP’s habits and the party had done so in Tripura as well.
The political violence in Bengal, which began in the run-up to the polls, shows no signs of abating. On Saturday, two BJP workers and a TMC supporters were killed, while on Monday night, two people lost their lives in a crude bomb explosion.
(With inputs from agencies)