Three BJP MLAs have decided to stay away from Vadfest — a cultural event backed by the Gujarat government that will feature musicians Yanni and A R Rahman among others. It was kicked off on Friday by cabinet minister Saurabh Patel.
The MLAs who have decided to “stay away” from the festival include Manjalpur MLA Yogesh Patel, Raopur Rajendra Trivedi and Sayajigunj MLA Jitendra Sukhadia. They have questioned the rationale behind “selling tickets” for a city festival. According to them, a festival supported by the state government has no place for sale of tickets, that too at prices beyond the reach of the common man.
MLA Yogesh Patel said, “The event is supported by the government of Gujarat, but people from Vadodara, including elected representatives, have not been consulted about what they would like the festival to be. A bunch of people have decided what Vadfest will be. Common people are not able to participate in the main events as the focus is on audience flying in from outside. Never has it happened in the history of an event organised by the government that tickets have been sold. It should be free for citizens of Vadodara.”
Trivedi said, “The Vadfest group has extended an invitation, but since we are given to understand that it is a committee of private individuals, attending it is not binding.” Jitendra Sukhadia, meanwhile, said he had “no time or money” to participate. “I am not opposed to the event. It has been organised by someone and it is fine. But I did not attend today and I don’t have the time or money to attend further events,” he said.
The MLAs skipped the inauguration of the Garvi Gujarat event by minister for Tourism and Power, Saurabh Patel, who declared Vadfest open on Friday. Also, most BJP councillors of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, who are miffed about being sidelined from the event despite the civic body spending crores on the beautification of the city, also gave it a miss. A local councillor said, “We have not been invited for the elite events of Vadfest as those are exclusively for the corporate class. Is that how you hold a festival in the city to promote it?”
Most BJP leaders in the city and district attended a function to inaugurate Vadodara MP Ranjan Bhatt’s new working office, which coincided with the inauguration of Garvi Gujarat.
Tourism minister Saurabh Patel, meanwhile, said that although international events to be held between January 23 and 26 – including high-profile concerts by Yanni and A R Rahman – are major attractions, the “pre-opening” events with Gujarati artistes on Friday mark the beginning of Vadfest. Patel said that people from over 42 countries had booked tickets for the concerts and cultural events to take place between January 23 and 26, with a large group of corporates expected to visit as well.
“People from as many as 42 countries have booked tickets to the Vadfest events. We speak of a 100 countries visiting Vibrant Gujarat Summit, but people from 42 countries have recognised Vadodara too. A large number of corporates are expected to attend the events in Vadodara,” Patel told the media.
Patel also declared that for residents of Vadodara, “inexpensive” tickets to A R Rahman’s concert were available. “For Rahman, the ticket prices begin from Rs 500 for Vadodara residents and for Yanni at Rs 2,500. Yanni performing against the backdrop of Lukshmi Vilas Palace to a gathering of just about 9,000 people means that anyone with a ticket of even Rs 2,500 in the farther rows would be able to view and hear very closely,” Patel said.
Vadfest will also see several artists from across the country exhibiting their works at the MS University’s Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA). However, the art show has been marred by controversy with alumni of the faculty – including Mumbai-based filmmaker Madhushree Dutta and Pushpamala N – urging fellow MSU FFA colleagues to not “associate with the right wing forces” organising Vadfest. Accordingly, several artists such as Gigi Scaria, Tushar Joag, Sheba Chhachhi, Mithu Sen and Vivan Sundaram have pulled back from the event.
Earlier, renowned Vadodara singers Vatsala Patil, Pushottam Upadhyay and Atul Purohit had pulled out of the Garvi Gujarat concerts citing “insult” by organisers. When asked about the decision to pull back, Patel said, “We have extended invites to all. Whoever wants to come can come, who does not want to come will not come. Our intention is to only promote Vadodara as a cultural capital and to provide a platform to the alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts to exhibit their work.”