It’s 'Khela Hobe Diwas' vs 'Paschimbanga Bachao Diwas' in Bengal Today

It’s ‘Khela Hobe Diwas’ vs ‘Paschimbanga Bachao Diwas’ in Bengal Today

Interesting games are being played in West Bengal this Monday with the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party looking to outscore each other. The TMC has gone ahead with its “Khela Hobe Diwas” plans and Mamata Banerjee will attend a football match in Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium. The BJP is observing “Paschimbanga Bachao Diwas”, or Save West Bengal Day, with its state president Dilip Ghosh leading protests.

“Khela Hobe” (game on) is the slogan that Trinamool used extensively in its campaign for the April-May assembly elections that the party decisively won. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee later announced that August 16 will be marked as Khela Hobe Diwas to pay respect to sixteen football fans who died in a stampede during a match on this day in 1980 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens stadium. One lakh footballs would be distributed on the day, she said. Mamata also emphasised that Khela Hobe will now go national, as her party is looking to spread its influence in other states ahead of the 2024 parliamentary polls. Events have been organised all over Bengal: from Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata to small grounds in the districts. All state ministers and leaders of the party, along with the cadre, will take part in the celebrations today.

“Khela Hobe will be observed everywhere. Even BJP workers want to play, wearing masks…It’s Mamata Banerjee’s call,” TMC leader Kunal Ghosh said.

There are questions though on how Khela Hobe Diwas will take place in some other parts of the country, with Trinamool leaders saying they have not received permission in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

There were apprehensions about Tripura as well, a state adjoining Bengal that has seen hectic Trinamool activity in recent days with the party looking to oust the ruling BJP in the 2023 assembly polls. Early in the morning, Trinamool leaders played a football match at the Vivekananda Stadium in capital city Agartala. TMC Rajya Sabha member Santanu Sen said, “It was a superb feeling. We came, scored goals.” Former international footballer and Trinamool MP Prasun Banerjee said he too enjoyed playing a match.​

The BJP, on the other hand, has been running a weeklong programme to highlight the “deteriorating law and order situation in Bengal”. The party’s state president Dilip Ghosh and leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari are expected to sit in protest in Kolkata on Monday. The BJP has been objecting to Khela Hobe Diwas, pointing out that August 16 was the day the Muslim League launched its Direct-Action Day in 1946 that triggered the great Calcutta killings — communal riots in which many lives were lost. And, apart from Kolkata, senior leaders of the party will protest in every district of Bengal.

“TMC is no one to teach history or geography to anyone. This is the same party that is marking Khela Hobe Diwas in a day, which will make Lord Curzon and Jinnah very very proud,” Adhikari tweeted.​

TMC’s Kunal Ghosh responded by asking, “Why, on August 16, 2014, did BJP celebrate Khel Diwas? They should reply to that first, then ask questions.”

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