On Monday, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her disapproval of Tamil Nadu minister Udhayanidhi Stalin’s “Sanatana Dharma” comments, which have ignited a political controversy ahead of several state elections and invited criticism from the BJP. This situation has also placed the opposition coalition INDIA in a challenging position, requiring its leaders to employ diplomatic skills to maintain unity.
After a day of silence on the matter, Ms. Banerjee finally spoke up following comments from the Congress party. The Trinamool Congress leader, who had previously recited scriptures in the run-up to the assembly polls to counter BJP allegations of minority appeasement, stated, “We should avoid engaging in matters that may offend any segment of the population.”
Regarding Udhayanidhi Stalin’s remarks, Ms. Banerjee, referring to him as a junior figure, expressed her uncertainty about the reasons and basis for his comments. She emphasized the importance of equal respect for all religions, saying, “I respect the people of Tamil Nadu and South India. However, I humbly request them to respect all religions, as each religion has its own sentiments.”
Highlighting the principles of “Unity in Diversity” and India’s inclusive secularism, Ms. Banerjee added, “I hold great respect for Sanatana Dharma, and we draw our teachings from the Vedas… We have many priests, and our state government provides them with pensions… We have numerous temples across the country. We visit temples, mosques, and churches.”
Udhayanidhi Stalin’s comment characterizing Sanatana Dharma as something that “should be eradicated like malaria and dengue” has given the BJP ammunition ahead of various assembly elections. In response to the widespread social media backlash, the BJP has labeled Stalin’s comment as a “call for genocide” and accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of being “anti-Hindu” due to his silence on the issue.
The Congress party has taken a nuanced stance, emphasizing the importance of respecting all religions and individuals’ right to express their opinions. Younger leaders within the Congress, such as Priyank Kharge and Karti Chidambaram, have expressed support for Udhayanidhi Stalin, as has CPM’s D Raja.