West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday unveiled a new statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, less than 30 days after the bust of the Bengali renaissance icon was vandalised during a clash between TMC and BJP workers in Kolkata.
Banerjee, the chief of the ruling TMC, garlanded Vidyasagar’s bust at a ceremonial programme at the Hare School ground in College Street.
The bust will be reinstalled at the Vidyasagar College, where the original statue stood, later in the day.
On 14 May, at the height of the Lok Sabha elections 2019, clashes erupted between supporters of the BJP and the TMC at College Street during a roadshow of BJP chief (now Home Minister) Amit Shah.
Shah’s roadshow was allegedly pelted with stones. The BJP blamed TMC for triggering the violence that led to a pitched battle between the two sides.
It was during this incident that Vidyasagar’s statue was desecrated by unidentified miscreants. The TMC blamed the BJP for the incident, alleging that the destruction of the bust of the 19th century icon was carried out by “outsiders” belonging to the saffron party.
The TMC turned the incident into a major political issue. The Bengal CM, other TMC leaders and the party itself changed the profile picture of their official social media accounts to that of Vidyasagar’s photo.
But the BJP, too, attacked TMC and Banerjee over the vandalism of the statue.
On 16 May, three days before the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a blistering attack on Banerjee over the bust destruction.
While accusing TMC of the political violence in Bengal, PM Modi announced that his government will install a grand statue of Vidyasagar at the same spot.
“We saw hooliganism by TMC workers again during Bhai Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata. They vandalised Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue. We are committed to Vidyasagar’s vision and will install his grand statue at the same spot,” the PM declared at a public rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau.
Responding to the PM’s announcement, Banerjee took a jibe saying that his government could not build “a Ram Temple” in five years.
“In last five years you (PM) couldn’t make a Ram Temple and you want to make Vidyasagar’s statue?” she said on 16 May at a political rally in Diamond Harbour constituency of 24 Parganas South district.
Political violence singed West Bengal in all seven phases of the elections.