While the coastal town of Chiplun, in the Konkan region, saw guests streaming in to attend the annual Marathi literary festival that begins on Friday, controversies surrounding the festival took precedence over the programmes that are scheduled over the next three days.
The 86th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, a three-day long affair, will be inaugurated by Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Friday afternoon. This is the third time that the festival is taking place in the Konkan region. The last time it was held was in 2000.
The latest controversy that the festival has been embroiled in is regarding the use of development funds of 15 legislators, of Rs. 5 lakh each, for the festival. These funds, the rule book says, can be used only for development work such as repair work of roads, drains, toilets and community centres.
However, as the controversy grew larger the government revealed that a special government resolution had been issued to clear this amount.
“This amount has been cleared by the government and signed by the governor. Hence there is no controversy. People should enjoy the festival and the rich Konkan culture,” said water resources minister Sunil Tatkare who is the chairman of the reception committee at the festival. Sources say that the resolution specifies that this is an exception and should not be repeated.
The first controversy surrounding the festival began with opposition to Tatkare being appointed the chairman of the reception committee. Minister of state for urban development Bhaskar Jadhav who is also the guardian minister for Ratnagiri had opposed Tatkare’s appointment, who is the guardian minister of the adjoining Raigad district, and is not a local.
“I don’t want to comment on the controversy. I hope the festival goes off well,” said Jadhav.
The festival also faced opposition from a large section of writers against naming the main stage of the venue after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray owing to his reservations about Marathi literature.
Further, Maratha right wing extremist group, Sambhaji Brigade, also objected to Parshuram’s picture being used on the detailed programme sheet of the meet, saying it was a caste conflict.