Every year, the residents of Midnapore eagerly wait for Saraswati Puja not only as they get a chance to worship the goddess of learning but because they get to enjoy the cartoons that different puja organisers put up in their pandals. Most of the puja committees are backed by political parties who are loathe to let go of this opportunity to attack or lampoon their adversaries. Not only is this tradition unique to Midnapore but it is limited to the pujas held in the vicinity of Midnapore College.
While the puja committees backed by the Opposition parties train their guns on the Trinamool Congress for the alleged role of its leaders in the Saradha scam, the committees controlled by the ruling party attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi while highlighting the development ushered in by the Mamata Banerjee government. The cartoons have been etched on huge banners that are placed on the pandal premises.
Not just the residents of this town, people from other areas of the district gather on College Road this day and go pandal-hopping. While puja committees such as Garima and Agnikanya are controlled by the Trinamool Congress or TMCP, Pragati is backed by Chhatra Parishad. Jagaran is controlled by ABVP while SFI controls committees like No Compromise and Red Castle. In its pandal, Jagaran attacks transport minister Madan Mitra, an accused in the Saradha scam, who is shown as behind bars in Alipore Jail. There is another cartoon that celebrates the successes of Modi in the last eight months.
Garima and Agnikanya, on the other hand, attack Modi and his party, the BJP, as well as the CPI(M), which has been the bête noire of the Trinamool and its chief for a long time. While Garima’s cartoons attack the CPI(M) and Modi, they also demand punishment for the accused in the Netai massacre. In its pandal, Agnikanya depicts veteran BJP leader LK Advani as an old-age home inmate. Another cartoon shows Amit Shah with the CBI — with the latter being portrayed as Modi’s dogs. Pragati targets Mamata Banerjee who is shown carrying a basket on her head. In it, one can see leaders such as Mukul Roy and Madan Mitra, who are known to be close to the chief minister.
Sangrami Gosthi and Red Castle, which are backed by the SFI, attack Modi and the Trinamool on the Saradha scam.
“They (the organisers) are trying to give a bad name to Mamata Banerjee. But these attempts will not work. They (BJP) made a lot of promises before coming to power but they haven’t been able to deliver,” said Prasenjit Chakraborty, a Trinamool Congess leader.
There are some social messages too. The evil of rape and molestation are denounced in the cartoon put up by No Compromise.
“This began 20 years ago. The main attraction is the cartoons lampooning political leaders. People wait a year to see these and this has become a tradition in Midnapore,” Kunal Banerjee, a Congress leader, said.