Kolkata: Ahead of assembly elections in West Bengal, the BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress have gotten into a slogan slugfest, as they both promise a golden age for the state.
The BJP has incorporated parts of Rabindranath Tagore’s revolutionary song, Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomai Bhalobashi (My golden Bengal, I love you), into its poll slogans.
The party’s chief election slogan, Amar Sonar Bangla Banabo (we will restore the state’s lost glory), is a straight lift from the Tagore poem and so is the party’s yet-to-be-released manifesto, which has been tilted ‘Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal)’.
Written in the backdrop of the Partition of Bengal and questioning the motive behind splitting one of the then most resource-rich states of the country, Amar Sonar Bangla is an eulogy to Bengal’s riches. It was penned in 1905.
On the other hand, the Trinamool’s chief slogan — Joy Bangla (victory of Bengal) — is from the poem Purna Abhinandan, written by Bengali poet, writer and musician, Kazi Nazrul Islam, in 1922. It was seen as a war cry for Bengali nationalism back then. Islam was commonly known as the Bidrohi Kabi (a rebel poet).
Both songs were incidentally adopted by Bangladesh in 1972. While Amar Sonar Bangla is the country’s national anthem, Joy Bangla is its national slogan.
Mamata began using Joy Bangla as a counter to BJP’s almost socially viral slogan ‘Jai Shree Ram’.
The chief minister has made her annoyance at Jai Shree Ram quite plain, accusing the BJP of politicising it.
To counter it, Mamata and the TMC came up with the Joy Bangla slogan, synonymous with Bengali nationalism.
In every programme and in every public rally, the chief minister sums up her speech with Joy Bangla. She had, in fact, urged Bengalis to start a conversation with “Joy Bangla” and not with “hello” while talking over the phone.
The chief minister had even launched a pension scheme for the backward class and the tribal population in February 2020 and named it as the Joy Bangla Pension Scheme.
Joy Bangla vs Sonar Bangla
Taking a cue from Mamata’s attempts at generating a fresh narrative, the BJP introduced its Bengal-centric slogan Sonar Bangla.
While BJP leaders have been speaking of a Sonar Bangla for a while now, party president J.P. Nadda officially launched its Lokkho Sonar Bangla (Target Golden Bengal) campaign in February this year.
“Sonar Bangla means a state that Netaji Subhas Bose, Rabindra Thakur and Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) might have imagined. We will bring in our industry revival plans,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh told ThePrint. “There will be equality for all and no appeasement. The youth will get jobs and flight of industries will be arrested. We will take action and curb violence. These are the reasons we have called our manifesto Sonar Bangla and that is our poll promise.”
Significantly, Ghosh had criticised Mamata Banerjee’s Joy Bangla slogan, calling it an “Islamic Country’s Slogan”.
— Dilip Ghosh (@DilipGhoshBJP) January 27, 2021
Told that BJP’s Sonar Bangla is also the national anthem of Bangladesh, Ghosh said, “Many songs written by our great poets have been adopted by our neighbouring countries as their national anthems. Bangladesh was a part of us and Tagore is as much as theirs as he is ours. In fact, the national anthem of Sri Lanka was also written by Tagore.”
The Trinamool, however, claims that the BJP does not even understand what Tagore wanted to say when he wrote Sonar Bangla.
“This is why we say that BJP does not understand Bengali tradition and culture. Kabiguru (Tagore) wrote Sonar Bangla for undivided Bengal, and BJP is trying to polarise Bengal uttering the same expression,” said theatre director-turned-Trinamool MP Arpita Ghosh.
“They are trying to impress Bengalis by saying all these, but these are laughable attempts. Joy Bangla is not a promise, it is our pride. We say Joy Bangla because we are proud of our origin and our legacy.”
To literary experts, however, these are nothing but “cheap thrills” for vested political interests.
Pabitra Sarkar, a veteran academician and Rabindra-expert told The Print, “By saying Sonar Bangla Banabo (will build a Golden Bengal), BJP is trying to sell a dream to Bengalis, while Mamata Banerjee, by uttering Joy Bangla, tries hard to get the Bengali sentiment out. But both are political speeches and we do not see any substance in them.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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