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TMC-BJP lock horns over Swami Vivekananda legacy ahead of assembly polls


Kolkata, Jan 12: The Trinamool Congress and the BJP Tuesday indulged in verbal duel in a bid to appropriate the legacy of Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary ahead of the assembly polls.

JP Nadda and Mamata Banerjee

The opposition BJP said it wants to take the state on the path of development following the principles of the 19th- century monk, while the TMC asserted that the land of Swami Vivekananda will never accept the "hate politics imported from Gujarat".

Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary was celebrated on Tuesday across West Bengal with the main attraction being his house at Simla Street here, where leaders of various political parties paid tributes to the Hindu spiritual leader and reformer.

Leaders of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress made a beeline at the residence of Swamiji since morning and paid floral tributes to the monk, whose birth anniversary is celebrated as the National Youth Day.

With the state polls in Bengal only months away, the occasion triggered a war of political one-upmanship between the TMC and the BJP.

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The saffron party lined up several programmes across the state to prove themselves as the true followers of the monk. Trinamool Congress youth wing president and MP Abhishek Banerjee, who participated in a five km long march to commemorate the day, mocked at the BJP for propagating themselves as followers of Swami Vivekananda and said he never preached "divisive politics".

"A political party is trying to propagate themselves as the followers of Swami Vivekananda. I want to tell them that Swamiji never preached hate politics and communalism, practiced by the BJP", Abhishek said while addressing a rally after a march in South Kolkata.

Abhishek, who is also an MP and nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said the land of Swami Vivekananda has no place for the hate politics imported from Gujarat.

"The people of Bengal and the land of Vivekananda, which is his birthplace, will reject the hate politics practiced by the saffron party. "They (BJP) have passed a new citizenship law CAA, where a person will get citizenship on the basis of religion. Did Swamiji ever said that citizenship should be granted after determining the religion?" he asked.

Accusing the BJP of insulting icons of Bengal such as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Banerjee said, none of them propagated pitting one religion against other, like the BJP.

Senior TMC leader and minister Firhad Hakim said the BJP is using Swami Vivekananda and other icons for their political gains.

"They are trying to use the icons of Bengal for their vested interests. If they are so concerned about Swami Vivekananda, in the last six years what has the union government done to commemorate his birth anniversary and his ideals. The answer is nothing", he said.

Paying tributes to Swamiji, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted "His message of peace and universal brotherhood is of utmost relevance today and inspires all of us to strive hard in safeguarding these ideals in our beloved nation".

The TMC and its youth wing took out rallies in various parts of the state to observe the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. Meanwhile, the BJP, trying to shed the tag of "outsider" branded by the TMC, left no stone unturned to mark the 158th birth anniversary of the monk with pomp and grandeur.

Apart from taking out rallies in various parts of the state, the BJP leadership took out a rally from Shyambazar to the monk's ancestral residence at Simla Street in North Kolkata.

"Swami Vivekananda ideals are more relevant in today's world. We would take the state on the path of development following the principles of Swamiji", West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said after leading the rally. There is a need for change in Bengal and his ideals are our guiding light, he said.

Senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha said the party has always been an ardent follower of ideals of Swami Vivekananda. BJP national vice president Mukul Roy and other state- level leaders like former state president Rahul Sinha, Jaiprakash Majumdar also participated in the rally.

Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and senior leader Suvendu Adhikari garlanded the statue of Swami Vivekananda at his north Kolkata residence.

The election to the 294-member West Bengal assembly is scheduled to be held in April-May.

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