Uncertainty over Bengal BJP’s Durga Puja celebrations after party’s poll debacle

Less than a month remains for the biggest festival in West Bengal, the Durga Puja celebrations, to take off, but uncertainty still looms over the fate of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s puja celebrations this year
Image for representation. (AFP)
Image for representation. (AFP)
Updated on Sep 18, 2021 04:12 PM IST
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Less than a month remains for the biggest festival in West Bengal, the Durga Puja celebrations, to take off, but uncertainty still looms over the fate of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s puja celebrations this year.

In October 2020, the party organised Durga Puja for the first time in the state with much fanfare. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had virtually addressed the people of West Bengal on the occasion of Durga Sasthi on October 22.

This year, however, no such initiative and plans have been made so far, senior party leaders said. Even though the five-day-long Durga Puja starts this year from October 11, the festival extends for more than a week every year. Mahalaya this year would be held on October 6 and the immersion process would continue till 17.

“I was not among the puja organisers last year. Some of those who had organised it are not there in the party anymore. As far as I know, no preparations have been made yet. I don’t know whether those who were there in the cultural cell of the party and had organised the puja last year, are doing anything this year. I had told last year too that it is not the party’s job to organize a puja. Some people went ahead and did it. I don’t know what are their plans this year,” said Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s president in West Bengal.

In May, the party suffered a debacle in the assembly polls. While top leaders of the BJP including, the PM and Union home minister Amit Shah, had claimed that BJP would form the government with more than 200 seats, the party could manage only 77 seats. The TMC returned to power with a sweeping victory winning 213 seats and Mamata Banerjee took oath as the chief minister for the third consecutive row on May 5.

“Last year, on the instructions of the party, the puja was organised by the party’s cultural wing, women’s wing and youth wing. This year, no such instructions have come,” said Amrita Banerjee, BJP youth leader.

Senior BJP leaders, including the then Union minster Babul Supriyo, party’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta were seen beating the dhak (drums) on the dais last year during the puja, while others such as MP Locket Chatterjee, the then vice president of the party Mukul Roy and BJP leader and former mayor of Bidhannagar Sabyasachi Dutta had played important roles in organizing the puja at EZCC in Salt Lake.

“Last year, the durga puja was organised in the auditorium of the central organization named Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre. The assembly elections were ahead (scheduled in 2021). Now there are no elections. Again, they would organize another Durga puja ahead of the 2024 parliament elections,” said Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, TMC Rajya Sabha MP.

While Mukul Roy has shifted to the TMC, Locket Chatterjee has been appointed as a co-in charge of the BJP in Uttarakhand for the upcoming Assembly election 2022. Babul Supriyo had said he was quitting politics even though he and Swapan Dutta had been made the party’s star campaigners for the upcoming Bhabanipur elections. Both Supriyo and Dasgupta had contested in the recently held assembly polls and had lost. Dutta has fallen silent. While Supriyo has joined TMC.

The Durga Puja in West Bengal would be held this year following all the Covid-19 protocols, mandated by the high court and state government, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier said.

While at least 36,000 community pujas are held across the state, in Kolkata alone 2500 community pujas are held by various clubs. These are just the clubs that are registered with the state government. This apart there are pujas held in housing societies and residences. There are around 1500 pujas which are organised by women only.

In 2020, the Calcutta high court had banned the entry of visitors inside puja pandals. A cap was put on the number of committee members, local residents and dhakis (drummers) who could enter the pandal as part of the celebrations. Last year, puja was celebrated in a muted manner which prevented a major spike in Covid-19 cases.

According to a study commissioned by the state government in 2018, the economic value of the creative industries that crop up around the Durga Puja – the biggest festival in West Bengal – is worth 32,377 crore.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021