With the change of power in the state and at the Centre, the Pune Festival, a brainchild of former Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, will also see a change in the list of dignitaries invited for its inaugural function.
For years, the inaugural function has been dominated by Congress bigwigs, but this year, Kalmadi’s team has preferred to invite BJP leaders, including Chief Minister Devendra Fadanavis and Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, at the inauguration of the 11-day festival beginning September 17.
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“This would be the 27th edition of the festival. This is no more a festival of Puneites, but a state function sponsored by Maharasthra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC),” said Kalmadi, who is the president of the Pune Festival’s organising committee.
Kalmadi, suspended by Congress following allegations of corruption in Commonwealth Games, would be sharing dais with Fadanavis, Javadekar, Pune’s Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, state’s Social Justice Minister Dilip Kamble of BJP and state’s Water Resources Minister Vijay Shivtare of Shiv Sena.
When pointed out that these would be new faces for the inauguration, Kalmadi said Congress leader and former minister Harshwardhan Patil was also among the guests for the inaugural function.
Last year, the festival was to be inaugurated by the then chief minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, but he stayed away, leaving it to NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal to do the honours. In 2013, senior Congress leader and the then union minister Kapil Sibal was to inaugurate the function, but he too stayed away citing ill health, though other Congress and NCP leaders had shared the dias.
Asked why he was not active in politics for a long time, Kalmadi said, “I am very much here and have not gone anywhere.”
Pointing at the contribution of BJP MP and actress Hema Malini in Pune Festival, he said, “She is a BJP MP and has been involved with Pune Festival as its patron. She recently met with an accident, but she insisted to perform with her troupe this year. She would also be actively participating in the festival as she did in past.”
Among the various cultural events, the inaugural function is also going to have a show of yoga and malkhamb this year.