West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ending her Nandigram assembly election campaign by proclaiming that she belongs to the Shandilya gotra of Brahmins adds an incendiary element to the very charged up Bengal elections of 2021.
At a time when the BJP has invoked Hindutva icons and issues to win a state it has never won before, Mamata is now wearing her Hindu identity interspersed with Bengali pride into the business leg of the campaign.
To Mamata's advantage, invoking her Hindu Brahmin identity is now being amplified into the second round of polling in the 8-leg marathon election. Mamata is battling friend-turned-foe Suvendu Adhikari who has joined the BJP, for the high-profile Nandigram seat.
The BJP has countered Mamata's comment and said this shows that defeat is certain for the incumbent. BJP leader and Union Minister Giriraj Singh said that Mamata was announcing her gotra in desperation.
"I never need to say it is my gotra, I write it. But she says it out of fear of losing the election. Mamata Banerjee, please tell me whether Rohingya and infiltrators are also of the Shandilya gotra? Her defeat is certain," Singh said.
Responding to Giriraj Singh, Mahua Mitra, Trinamool Congress MP introduced the "rakshasa" narrative into the already incendiary vocabulary exchange.
Moitra just stopped short of calling Singh "Chotiwala Rakshasa Clan (Ponytailed Demonic clan)".
"Union Minister Giriraj Says Mamata's from 'Rohingya Clan' Proud of it. Far better than being from the Chotiwala Rakshasa Clan!" Mitra said in a tweet.
Locket Chatterjee, BJP MP from Hooghly, attacked the Trinammol and Mitra for "appeasement politics".
"Proud of being a Rohingya and calling Hindus Rakshas is a new low even by TMC's otherwise low standards! Shame on their appeasement politics...", the BJP MP said in a tweet.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also waded into the controversy and pointed out both BJP and TMC for 'invoking Hindutva' during campaign rallies.
"What should happen to people like me who aren't Shandilya or Janeudhari (a reference to Rahul Gandhi), aren't bhakts of certain gods, don't recite Chalisa or any Paath? Every party feels that it has to show its Hindu credentials to win. Unprincipled, insulting & unlikely to succeed", Owaisi said.
In a final gambit just before the curtains came down on campaigning for the second phase of the Bengal election that will include Nandigram seat, Mamata said she belongs to Shandilya- one of the eight highest Brahmin 'gotras'.
The Chief Minister led off by reminiscing about visits to temples, where priests asked her for her 'gotra' or lineage.
"During my second campaign, I visited a temple where the priest enquired about my 'gotra'. I told him 'Maa Maati Manush' (the slogan that powered her to victory in 2011)," Banerjee said, before adding, "Actually. I am Shandilya."