IT IS THE season to put the best foot forward in West Bengal, and Mamata Banerjee is putting on quite a show.
After inaugurating hundreds of Durga Puja pandals physically or virtually, like every year, the West Bengal Chief Minister – who has had little to celebrate about the past few months gone – is this time going one step further.
On Wednesday, she danced the dandiya, at a pandal in Chakraberia, Ballygunge, Kolkata, sportingly clicking the dance sticks together as others whirled around her.
Earlier, she sang the Chandi Shloka at a pandal in Sreebhumi in Kolkata’s Lake Town, blew the trumpets at another, and entered a puja beating the dhak (drum). She has also sung at Nabaneer Old Age Home in South Kolkata.
Where Mamata can’t be physically present, she will still be present. A music album has been released in which the CM sings a Durga Puja song that she has written and composed.
The hiccups at the start of this Puja politics are already forgotten. First, Mamata was accused of having started some pujas while the inauspicious pitra paksha was still on, which ends with Mahalaya. The TMC claimed she had just inaugurated some pandals, and not started pujas. Mamata stopped as soon as the row sparked off, to take up after Mahalaya. At one of the Puja launches, she forgot some lines of the Chandi Shloka.
The beleaguered TMC, facing raids, arrests and the visuals of cash tumbling out of closets of leaders, is clearly relieved at the sight of its supremo “enjoying”. A senior leader said, “Mamata Banerjee is always good with people, and this year, she has gone the extra mile. Probably, after the series of corruption charges against her colleagues, she felt the need for a break.”
— Banglar Gorbo Mamata (@BanglarGorboMB) September 30, 2022
But the corruption cloud very much hangs in the air, with the pujas Mamata has missed a clue. For example, she stayed out of the inauguration of the Naktala Udayan Sangha Durga Puja, known as Partha Chatterjee’s puja. The former TMC No. 2 was arrested on July 23 for alleged involvement in the school job scam, followed by the arrest of his aide Arpita Mukherjee. The Enforcement Directorate claims to have recovered almost 50 crore in cash from Arpita’s flat in connection with the scam.
Before the Puja season began, the TMC government had laid the grounds for this year’s grand celebrations by getting a “heritage” tag from UNESCO for the festivities. On September 1, Mamata led a march to “thank” UNESCO. The state government has announced 11 days of holiday for its employees, and granted Rs 60,000 each to 43,000 Puja committees. Capping the festivities will be a Durga Puja carnival on October 8.
With the TMC anyway miles ahead of them in Puja statecraft, the Opposition is trying to play down Mamata’s starring role. BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said the CM was ready to pay to make herself the star of pandals. “She has ruined the sanctity of the Durga Puja.”