Bengal CM’s Rs 50K aid to Durga Puja clubs; BJP calls it poll code violation

BJP state unit complains to CEC; TMC slams party stance

Kolkata, 8 September 2021: The West Bengal unit of the BJP has raised a complaint with the Election Commission against Mamata Banerjee alleging that she has violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by announcing grants to the puja committees. 

The BJP shot off a letter to the office of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) pointing out that such announcements will influence the voters as Durga Puja clubs play a prominent role in the electoral process.

“We do not have to learn Hindutva from the TMC. They have stopped ‘bisarjan’ (immersion of the Durga idol) procession and did not give permission to conduct Durga puja,” BJP leader Dilip Ghosh said at a press conference later, adding, “last year, they had arrested the secretary of a puja committee as I inaugurated the puja.”

BJP further said that no puja committee has asked for the grant. They are giving the grants forcibly. “These grants are baits to the clubs so that they can promote Mamata Banerjee by putting up her pictures and TMC policies,” Dilip said.

“Sour losers going out of their way to prove yet again how dim-witted they truly are! Feeling sad for the folks at @BJP4Bengal. This shoddy attempt to mar Durga Puja celebrations for many committees will cost them dearly. People will remember!” Kunal wrote on Twitter.

TMC says assistance was announced in 2011

Meanwhile speaking the media today, TMC MLA Bratya Basu said the financial assistance to the Durga Puja Committee began in 2011. “Mamata Banerjee decided to provide financial assistance of Rs 50,000 to the puja committees in 2011. It will help them to organize the puja, which in turn will generate an income for the seasonal workers,” Basu added.

Almost all the puja clubs of Bengal get these grants. Trinamool has already won 213 seats in the 2021 Bengal Assembly Elections. The party has proved its mass popularity. “It is a childish BJP tactic. Giving grants to almost 26,000-30,000 city-based clubs for the Bhabanipur constituency bypoll is not a political argument. The ‘Bahiragotos’ (outsiders) have hurt the Hindu sentiments,” Bratya added.

Bengal CM's Rs 50K aid to Durga Puja clubs; BJP calls it poll code violation
Bratya Basu speaks at a press conference against BJP’s allegation that TMC flouted norms by announcing Rs 50,000 grants to Durga Puja clubs

The Durgaconomy

According to a survey conducted by the British Council, Queen Mary University, and IIT Kharagpur, the Durga Puja economy amounts to Rs 32,377 crore. “A lot of small businesses owners, decorators visit Kolkata during puja to earn a living,” Mamata Banerjee had said yesterday at an administrative meeting organized at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. Not allowing Durga Puja will affect these small businesses, artists, musicians directly.

“These grants will, in turn, help hawkers, pandals stall owners, and pandal-makers,” Bratya Basu added. Last year, these small or seasonal business workers and artisans had suffered a lot due to Covid-19. Most of the puja committees decided to reduce the grandeur of the event. 

The study revealed that the creative industry aligned with the Durga Puja celebration for seven days contributes 2.53 percent of the state GDP, which equals $4.53 billion. This figure is comparable to the GDP of the Maldives. 

The study has mapped 10 different industries associated with the Durga Puja celebrations. These are the art and decoration, lighting and illumination, advertising and publishing, tourism and retail, idol-making industries. 

The grants also aid various relief works during natural disasters. “Puja clubs also take part in various relief works during natural disasters, like what was seen when Amphan struck. Any financial help will boost their capacity,” Basu added.

TMC calls it an insult to Hindu sentiments and Devi Durga

Soon after the news broke, almost all TMC leader expressed their dissatisfaction towards BJP’s action on Twitter with #BJPinsultsMa Durga.

AITC has said, “The self-proclaimed custodians of Hindu culture & values clearly DO NOT understand Hinduism, forget about respecting Hindu festivals! Now, their scant regard for Ma Durga and the traditions of Bengal stands exposed! This is an act of utter shame BJP!”

“If BJP had the slightest respect for the sentiments of the people of Bengal, they wouldn’t have dared to commit such an act! This is outrageous and hurts the sentiments of Bengalis and Hindus across the state,” AITC MP Prasun Banerjee said . Earlier, BJP state President Dilip Ghosh had, on record, upheld Lord Ram and dismissed Ma Durga altogether. 

Meanwhile, Bengal minister Shashi Panja tweeted: “We haven’t forgotten how @BJP4Bengal State President @DilipGhoshBJP insulted Ma Durga. Now his party has issues with people celebrating Durga Puja! With this move, their disconnect with the sentiments of this land is clearer than ever!”

Last year in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP government had prohibited Bengalis from celebrating the festival. TMC called this a ridiculous attempt by the BJP to prevent the people of Bengal from celebrating the festival.

CM Mamata Banerjee announces Durga Puja protocols

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had, yesterday, announced that Durga Puja will be celebrated with last year’s Covid-19 protocols. The ‘bisarjan’ festivities will be observed from 15th October to 17th October, and the Red Road Puja carnival will possibly be held on 18th October. “The final announcement of the Puja Carnival will be announced later after reviewing the situation,” Mamata Banerjee said.

She had said that, like last year, the government woud give Rs 50,000 to the small clubs as financial assistance. The Chief Minister added that the announcement of Rs 50,000 grants to the clubs was made after consulting the Election Commission as the Model Code of Conduct was in place for the bypolls. Apart from that, the state Chief Secretary HK Diwedi announced 50 percent discount on power tariff too.

Decision on night curfew to be taken later

The state hosts Durga Pujas at 36,000 spots every year. In Kolkata alone, 2,500 clubs celebrate the festival. The city-based women-run clubs organize around 1,500 pujas.  “Durga Puja will be held as per the Covid-19 guidelines announced last year. Clubs have been requested to construct smaller pandals and distribute masks and sanitizers to the pandal hoppers,” the CM said. She also requested corporate sponsors to donate masks and sanitizers to the organizers. They should strictly follow the Covid-19 protocols.

Most city dwellers love to visit the mega pandals at night. Due to this, the night curfew was revoked during the five days of celebrations last year. “It is too early to decide on whether or not to go ahead with the night curfew. We will announce the decision within a month after reviewing the situation,” she said. Durga Puja festivities will begin on 12th October.

Women Durga Puja Clubs

Like last year, all women Durga Puja committees will be helped by bigger puja clubs. The Chief Minster said that all big puja committees will take responsibility of the small and women Durga Puja clubs. Each club will take responsibility for five such small clubs, she added. Besides, the state police department and Kolkata Police will also take responsibility of such clubs.

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