Holding saffron flags and donning saffron head bands, playing religious songs in full thrust and chanting Lord Ram’s name, thousands of Hindutva activists on Sunday took out Ram Navami rallies across West Bengal for the second consecutive day.

Several processions were taken out by right-wing Hindu outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagaran Manch in various parts of Kolkata and the districts, many of which saw participation by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates for the coming Lok Sabha polls at their respective constituencies.

According to the VHP, which planned 700 rallies in West Bengal this year, 12 major Ram Navami rallies were taken out in Kolkata till Sunday afternoon while more were planned.

“Twelve major Ram Navami rallies have been taken out so far in Kolkata. A few more will come out in the evening. Many rallies have been taken out in the districts as well. We are sure to reach our aim of taking out 700 rallies in Bengal,” VHP Bengal unit spokesman Sourish Mukherjee told IANS.

He said most of the rallies could be taken out peacefully except one at north Kolkata’s Mahamilan Math, where a minor scuffle broke out between the police and rally participants after the administration denied permission for a proposed a bike rally.

Asked if active participation of BJP candidates in their rally ahead of the elections carries any political significance, he said it is wrong to politicise occasions like Ram Navami as the organisation has not invited any political outfits or leaders to take part in the rallies.

“We have always maintained that VHP has not invited any political personalities in the rallies. If someone wants to come and join us as a devoted Hindu, he is welcome. We are not concerned about people’s political leanings. Ram Navami is a centuries-old tradition across the country and it should not be given a political angle,” he said, adding a few more rallies will be taken out from parts of Bengal on Monday as well.

Apart from Kolkata, several Ram Navami processions were taken out from Hooghly, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and a number of north Bengal districts.

However, unlike Saturday where a number of devotees, including BJP state President Dilip Ghosh, were seen brandishing traditional weapons like maces and swords, no major armed rallies were taken out on Sunday.

BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from north Kolkata seat Rahul Sinha led a big procession with people dressed up as Lord Ram and his prime disciple Hanuman at the forefront, while south Kolkata candidate Anupam Hazra, who recently defected from the Trinamool Congress, also participated in a similar procession donning saffron head gear.

West Bengal BJP’s women wing President Locket Chatterjee conducted a 100-strong bike rally in Hooghly, from where she has been given ticket for the 2019 elections.

Other BJP candidates like Debasree Chaudhury and Dudh Kumar Mondal participated in the rallies in Raiganj and Birbhum, respectively.

In a bid to counter the BJP, West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress also took out a number of Ram Navami rallies in the city and suburbs on Sunday led by senior party leaders and state ministers.

A colourful procession was taken out in Howrah district’s Liluah by the state Minister Arup Roy, with participants beating drums and shouting “Jai Sree Ram”.

State Tourism Minister Gautam Deb and Minister of State for Sports Laxmi Ratan Sukla also participated in a rally with colourful tableaux in north Bengal’s Siliguri while Trinamool Congress MP Smita Bakshi also took out a procession with drummers and decorated horse carriages in central Kolkata.

Ram Navami is a spring Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu as per the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism.