Tagore united what politics divided — Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi
But, as always, the PM stole the thunder by addressing the crowd in Bangla.
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Those who have heard West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee tearing apart the policies of the Modi government — from demonetisation to GST — in the past, will find it hard to believe that both were seen sharing the same stage and smiling too.
When PM Narendra Modi arrived in Santiniketan on Friday (May 25), he was received by Banerjee with a bouquet of flowers. Modi, who was in Santiniketan to attend the 49th convocation ceremony of the Visva-Bharati University, shared the dais with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina besides Banerjee. The PM, who is the chancellor of the central university, also inaugurated the Bangladesh Bhavan on the occasion along with Hasina.
For the audience, it was not just a convocation but also a stage for bilateral relations between two countries and interaction between two arch political rivals. To the amusement of the onlookers, both Modi and Banerjee waxed eloquent on Tagore and his legacy with the latter taking the lead in her mother tongue, Bangla.
But PM Modi stole Banerjee's thunder by addressing the crowd in Bangla. "Gurudev said that walk alone if nobody responds to your call. But I would like to tell you that if you take one step, the government would take four to work towards your better future," Modi said quoting from Tagore's "Ekla Chalo Re".
Banerjee recited Tagore's poems as well as those written by Kazi Nazrul Islam in her own style, reminding how Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam bind both Hindu and Muslim Bengalis.
As she spoke, PM Modi was seen sitting next to Hasina and listening carefully to each word spoken by Banerjee in Bangla. It may not have been all about the language, but a lot about the confident body language that has made the two leaders stalwarts in own rights in the Indian political stage.
But just like Sheikh Hasina said, "Rabindranath Tagore belongs not just to West Bengal [India], but Bangladesh too. We have all grown up reading his books. Santiniketan is extremely close to our hearts."
That's true, Tagore remains close to everybody's heart.