BJP leaders, including Amit Shah, to inaugurate about 500 Durga pujas across Bengal

About 28,000 community Durga pujas take place across the state. Of them, nearly 2,500 are in Kolkata.
Home Minister Amit Shah(PTI file photo)
Home Minister Amit Shah(PTI file photo)
Updated on Sep 29, 2019 10:20 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Kolkata | BySnigdhendu Bhattacharya

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including its national president and Union home minister Amit Shah, are scheduled to inaugurate about 500 community Durga pujas across West Bengal, where over the past few years Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders have dominated the list of puja inaugurators over the past few years.

Confirming that Amit Shah will inaugurate a community Durga puja, Tushar Kanti Ghosh, BJP state unit member and in-charge of club relations, said on Friday, “Shah will inaugurate a puja on October 1. We will announce the name of the puja committee on September 28 or 29. We are keeping it a secret because otherwise, TMC will pressurise the organisers to cancel the invitation.”

This year, the five-day festival will start on October 4, the day of Mahashasthi.

About 28,000 community Durga pujas take place across the state. Of them, nearly 2,500 are in Kolkata. While the number of community Pujas to be inaugurated by BJP leaders in Kolkata proper stand at less than a dozen, about 66 Pujas in and around Kolkata have been finalised as of September 27 for inauguration by BJP leaders.

Ghosh said that they have finalised about 500 community Durga pujas across the state that would be inaugurated by BJP leaders, including MPs and MLAs and senior leaders.

Durga Puja, Bengal’s biggest annual festival, has seen very little association with BJP leaders. This year, the party’s central leadership had asked the state unit leaders to focus on increasing engagement with community puja committees to improve public relations.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been prime Puja inaugurator over the past few years, started opening Puja pandals from September 27 to make room for opening as many puja pandals as possible. She inaugurated two major Pujas in north Kolkata on Friday and one in the south.

Almost all of TMC’s MPs, MLAs, civic body chiefs and district unit leaders inaugurate or are associated with community Pujas.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife over which puja the Union home minister is going to inaugurate. Most of the major pujas in the city denied that Shah was coming to inaugurate their event. One puja committee, however, admitted that they sent an application to BJP seeking Shah’s time.

“We did invite Shah for the inauguration. The party is yet to give us confirmation in writing. So, it will be improper for us to name him as the inaugurator. Let us first receive the confirmation from the party,” said Umashankar Ghosh Dastidar, a BJP leader who is also the honourary president of the BJ Block Durga Puja in Kolkata’s satellite township of Salt Lake.

They have themed their puja pandal on characters from comics. The pandal is plastic-free and shaped as Dholakpur royal palace made famous by the comic series Chhota Bheem.

Incidentally, the Puja committee on Friday decided to the announce October 1 as the date of inauguration instead of the previously announced date of October 2. Shah is coming to the city on October 1 to address a gathering of BJP workers on citizenship screening exercise.

Among BJP leaders, the demand for the inauguration is highest for state unit president and Midnapore MP Dilip Ghosh. However, the party has decided that all senior leaders will share the task of inaugurating Pujas. Dilip Ghosh himself would inaugurate about seven to eight Pujas, as per the schedule prepared till Friday.

Apart from Ghosh, other leaders in high demand are union minister Babul Supriyo, national executive member Mukul Roy, national general secretary and the party’s Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, union minister Debasree Chaudhury and the state unit’s women’s wing chief Locket Chatterjee.

“All 18 MPs will inaugurate Pujas. The MPs from north Bengal will inaugurate Pujas in north Bengal,” Tushar Kanti Ghosh said.

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