As the Ganesh festival kicked off Thursday, political leaders made a beeline to inaugurate Ganesh Puja pandals in Kolkata and the districts.
Senior TMC leaders such as Sadhan Pande, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay and Sujit Bose were seen inaugurating pandals, as were BJP leaders including party national secretary Rahul Sinha, Sayantan Basu and Raju Banerjee.
State Power Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay has received 16 invitations to inaugurate Ganesh Pujas across the city.
Several big Ganesh Pujas were being held in Bhowanipore — Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s constituency.
Sadhan Pande, who is state Consumer Affairs Minister, has organised a Ganesh puja at his home. “The state has been doing well since 2011. We are performing Ganesh Puja to intensify growth. It is not being held for political reasons,” he said.
Ganesh Pujas have mushroomed in the state, giving political leaders an opportunity to connect with people ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials said, on condition of anonymity, that around 1,570 community Ganesh Pujas were taking place in the city this year, compared to 1,320 last year.
Idol makers in Kumartuli also said that this year the number of orders for Ganesh idols was more than last year. “This year, orders for Ganesh idols have increased. Most of the new orders are from puja organisers backed by TMC leaders,” said an artiste in Kumartuli.
BJP leaders, too, were very much part of the Ganesh festivities. West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh told The Indian Express, “Our leaders have been participating in Ganesh Puja for a long time. TMC is now pursuing a Hindu agenda and participating in Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti, Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi. Recently, the state government announced grants for Durga puja committees to mend their fences with them after banning immersion of idols last year on account of Muharram. Until last year, TMC pursued an anti-Hindu agenda.”
The CPM, meanwhile, accused the TMC of indulging in competitive communalism ahead of Lok Sabha polls. “TMC is resorting to religion to win the trust of the people. On one hand they are providing grants to Durga puja committees and on the other they are indulging in competitive communalism,” said senior CPM leader Rabin Deb.
Speaking to The Indian Express, TMC leader and state Agricultural Marketing Minister Arup Roy said, “We don’t do politics with gods. They (BJP) do it. We show respect to all Hindu festivals and also perform pujas in our homes. We do it out of our pure devotion,” he said.