WITH DAYS left for Durga Puja celebrations to start, artisans and employees are exhausting at work on the Naktala Udayan Sangha’s pandal, one of the crucial high-profile pujas in Kolkata. However this 12 months, there’s not one of the normal buzz — there are not any press conferences, no images of celebrities and TV stars smiling down from banners and no theme track. At the least not but.
The shortage of enthusiasm isn’t with out purpose: the puja is related to former state Cupboard minister Partha Chatterjee, who’s now below arrest within the trainer recruitment rip-off. The ‘model ambassador’ of the Naktala puja committee final 12 months, Arpita Mukherjee, is now a co-accused with Chatterjee within the case.
With this 12 months’s puja being held within the lengthy shadow of the occasions of the previous few months — which have seen leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress battle a string of corruption expenses — the pageant committees, which often perform by means of a mixture of patronage and politics, have set off on a low-key begin.
Whereas a cupboard minister (Chatterjee) and a celebration heavyweight (Anubrata Mondal) are below arrest over corruption expenses, quite a few Trinamool leaders, from nationwide common secretary Abhishek Banerjee to Cupboard ministers Moloy Ghatak and Firhad Hakim are below the glare of central investigation businesses such because the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI.
“We face a extreme disaster in getting company promoting this 12 months. The dilemma for the sponsor is that in the event that they affiliate themselves with us, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will harass them after the pujas. We’ve got a funds of round Rs 70 lakh, however this 12 months, we’re battling the sponsorships,” stated an individual who has for lengthy been related to the Naktala committee, which has Partha Chatterjee as patron.
Whereas the launch of the Natkala committee’s theme is a much-publicised occasion yearly, this 12 months, the organisers have determined to proceed their theme from final 12 months.
“Final 12 months, our theme was the Partition of Bengal. This 12 months, we are going to proceed with that theme and showcase ‘mota kapor’ — how the refugee ladies who got here from East Bengal used their embroidery and stitching abilities to work on coarse clothes (mota kapor),” stated Pradip Das, the artist of the Naktala puja committee.
The organisers are, nevertheless, placing on a courageous face, taking nice pains to disassociate themselves from their political patrons.
Gopal Ghosh, working president of the Naktala committee, stated, “My father Basudev Ghosh and his elder brother Tapan Ghosh began this puja. Later, former minister Kshiti Goswami (RSP) acquired related to this puja. Partha Chatterjee got here in after that. We’ve got over 500 energetic members who organise this puja yearly, however Kshiti da’s or Partha da’s identify caught on solely as a result of they had been ministers.”
“Our puja may have the identical glamour and grandeur as yearly. It’s simply that we now have campaigned much less this time. That simply provides to the build-up as a result of now individuals are questioning what our theme might be,” he added.
Organisers of the Chetla Agrani pandal, generally generally known as “Bobby dar pujo” (Bobby, as Firhad Hakim is referred to), claimed that their puja won’t lack the keenness of earlier years. Nevertheless, they too insist that Hakim is heading the committee “solely in identify”.
“Bobby da is now very busy as mayor of Kolkata Municipal Company and hardly will get concerned. His presence is simply in identify,” stated Samir Ghosh, convenor of the Chetla Agrani puja.
Hakim, who was arrested within the Narada case final 12 months, is out on bail.
One other heavyweight chief and puja organiser is Aroop Biswas. In accordance with a senior TMC chief, “Aroop, in reality, grew to become a pacesetter by means of his Suruchi Sangha puja. Over the past decade, Suruchi Sangha had turned company with model promotion, theme songs and different issues. However this 12 months, they haven’t achieved all this.”
Sandipan Mitra, a resident of Rashbehari, the Kolkata locality the place the Suruchi puja is held, stated, “Often, Suruchi Sangha begins its marketing campaign a month forward of the pujas. That is the primary 12 months after Covid restrictions had been eliminated. Apart from, this 12 months, the puja has acquired UNESCO recognition. So, we thought the pujas might be grander than ever, however that hasn’t occurred but.”
Nevertheless, a committee member of the Suruchi puja insisted that every one’s effectively. “Like yearly, this 12 months too we are going to arrange a grand pandal and put up decorations on September 25, on the day of Mahalaya. We plan to make use of songs whose lyrics and music have been composed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself,” he stated.
The organisers of Tala Pratyay, a puja committee related to minister Indranil Sen, too, try to distance themselves from their patron.
“Indranil da used to return to our puja however he isn’t the organiser of Tala Pratyay. Indranil da by no means participated actively. Native councillor Tarun Saha is in our committee however he too has no main contribution to the puja,” stated Suvajit Sharma, certainly one of organisers.
Bijay Das, one of many organisers of Sikdarbagan puja, a committee that’s related to Atin Ghosh, Deputy Mayor of Kolkata, stated, “Atin da is in our committee. However, he has nothing to do with this puja. The opposite committee members are those who gather sponsors and plan the theme.”
On their half, the Trinamool leaders insist that they aren’t pulling again.
Hakim stated, “All people is aware of I’m related to Chetla Agrani. This 12 months, too, I might be there all through the puja.”
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Kolkata Deputy Mayor Ghosh stated, “I’ve been related to the pujas from my faculty days. So there’s no query of distancing myself. It’s true that I haven’t been in a position to spare sufficient time to organise the puja however clearly, I might be current within the pandal.”
BJP leaders, nevertheless, level to the absence of heavyweight Trinamool leaders on this 12 months’s puja.
Sajal Ghosh, BJP chief and the principle organiser of the Santosh Mitra Sq. Durga Puja, stated, “They’re all hiding this 12 months. However we now have nothing to cover. Our puja accounts are at all times clear.”
Congress spokesperson Soumya Aich Roy stated, “There’s little question that after Partha Chatterjee and Anubrata Mondol’s arrest, TMC leaders are hesitant about going all out with their Durga pujas.”