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Bengal Assembly approves name change, state BJP says will block it in Parliament

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

The West Bengal Assembly, on Monday, 29 August, passed a resolution to change the name of the state to 'Bangla' in Bengali, 'Bengal' in English and 'Bangal' in Hindi.

However, the motion did not pass without some drama - both Congress and Left Front members walked out of the Assembly in protest. The BJP had already registered its opposition to the move, and promised to block it in Parliament, where it has the strength in numbers.

While representatives from the ruling Trinamool Congress and both the Congress and the Left participated in the debate, Congress legislators walked out in the midst of the discussion. The Left wanted an amendment to the name change resolution, but in the end, the resolution was passed through a voice vote.

Of course, the move was a mere formality, as the Trinamool Congress has a majority of 211 in a house of 294.

Reactions to the resolution

Congress leaders later said a committee should be set up before rechristening the state.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said the party wouldn't let the Trinamool Congress pass the resolution in Parliament, adding that BJP will not allow it to be tabled, as it would erase the memories of the partition.

Upon hearing Ghosh's statement, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lambasted the state BJP, and said the Trinamool Congress wouldn't allow the BJP to have its way.

After the debate ended, Banerjee called up Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and briefed him about the attitude of the state BJP. She felt that instead of offering healthy criticism, the state BJP was acting like a middleman.

"In every Centre-state issue, the state BJP is acting like a middleman. I have spoken to Rajnath ji and briefed him about such incidents, and requested him to pass the resolution to rename Bengal in the next Parliament session. If the people of a party control the government like this, you can understand that their intention is to oppose at every single step. Why should the middleman say he won't allow it? This is wrong," Banerjee said.

"Rajnath ji assured me that the matter will be looked into with utmost importance."

Incidentally, both RSS and state BJP leaders have initiated a campaign to block the name change. They have already held parleys with Rajnath to obstruct the proposal.

People won't forgive Opposition

Banerjee called the attitude of the Opposition a 'historic blunder', and said the people of the state would not forgive them for this.

She recalled that in 1999, the Left Front government had supported the move to rename the state to Bangla. In 2011, during her first term in power, Banerjee had convened an all-party meeting, and also sent a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs. And although the Home Ministry sought a clarification from the state, it did not take any initiative for accepting the proposed name. That's why she has again sent a resolution to Parliament for renaming Bengal.

Justifying the name change, Banerjee said it was necessary, as in every administrative meeting in New Delhi, state representatives could only speak at the end, since alphabetical order was followed.

"Bombay has become Mumbai, Madras has been renamed as Chennai, and there are many other instances. The base is Bengal, and we want to take everyone along with us. We are proud Bengalis, our intention is to make Bengal world famous. I hope this decision will be good for Bengal. There should be a brand of Bengal and a logo should be made," she added.

Interestingly, Congress leader Manas Bhunia supported Banerjee's comments, while his party colleagues vehemently attacked the Chief Minister, saying she was bypassing democratic processes and doing whatever she felt like.

Congress's Abdul Mannan, the Leader of the Opposition, said: "A few days ago, at the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad rally, she took the consent of the students of the TMCCP. By doing this, she completed her work of rechristening Bengal without taking the consent of any of the other people in the society - sociologists, historians, etc. She's trying to establish a one-party rule in the state."

Civil society reactions

While a section of historians and sociologists accepted the move, many thought Banerjee should have consulted with other sections of society before rechristening the state.

Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, eminent historian, said: "I support her move to rechristen the state to 'Bangla', instead of 'Bongo'. 'Bongo' can represent Bangladesh too."

Sugata Bose, another eminent historian and TMC MP, said the name change will bring about some significant development in the state.

Prof. Anandadeb Mukherjee, former vice-chancellor of Vidysagar University, on the other hand, did not support the move, saying that Banerjee should have consulted more historians.

IT employees Sukhesh Maity and Prafulla Chowdhury agreed that instead of changing the name, Banerjee should have focussed on the development of industries in Bengal.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 29 August 2016, 9:16 IST