Known to maintain a punishing work schedule, the Durga Puja festival has kept West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee busier than usual. Apart from attending to pressing administrative issues, “Didi” has been dashing around the city, soaking in the festive spirit in more ways than one.
From drawing the eyes of the goddess at a puja marquee, to penning the theme song for another, and coming out with a CD of songs she has written and set to tune — Banerjee seems to have left no opportunity to showcase her versatility during the biggest carnival in this part of the world.
She is also the star inaugurator of the marquees of big budget community pujas in the city and its outskirts. Banerjee’s brief inaugural speeches have also hogged the limelight, not only for her discourses on communal harmony in her down-to-earth style, but also for the way she has repeatedly made veiled attacks on the Bharatiya Janat Party (BJP), which the Trinamool Congress chief now considers her principal opponent.
Bringing forth her creative side, Banerjee wrote the lyrics of the theme song for south Kolkata’s Suruchi Sangha — a major crowd puller.
State Sports Minister Aroop Biswas, the chief organiser of the puja, hoped the song, rendered by Sreya Ghoshal, would be a smashing hit.
“It is a matter of great honour for us that the Chief Minister herself took out time to write the theme song for us for the third consecutive year. On the previous two occasions, numerous CDs of her theme song were sold from our stalls. It seems her song — “Ekatar Joyogaan” (the triumphant song of unity) would be popular this year as well,” Biswas said.
The recently-released puja music album “Matri Maa” contains nine songs written and composed by Banerjee, and sung by noted Bengali crooners like Indranil Sen and Rupankar. And Trinamool insiders say many community puja organisers (read Trinamool leaders, who helm almost all puja committees) have ordered the album and its songs are now heard in many marquees.
On the day of Mahalaya, that essentially heralds the homecoming of the goddess, Banerjee drew the eye of Goddess Durga in South Kolkata’s Chetla Agrani Club, patronised by her close lieutenant and state urban development minister Firhad Hakim.
She also began her inauguration routine from that day, with Naktala Udayan Sangha in South Kolkata being one of the early birds.
“Besides inaugurating the puja here, she visited the ‘Kanyasree’ (Banerjee’s pet project to stop marriage of minor girls and promote their higher education) stall where an exhibition about the scheme’s achievement is on,” Naktala Udayan Sangha spearhead and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, told IANS.
According to state secretariat Nabanna sources, request letters from different cities and suburbs for inaugurating their marquees flooded Banerjee’s office as also her residence months earlier. Around 50 prominent community pujas were shortlisted from them.
However, Banerjee’s puja engagements have not been free from controversies.
Days back, Banerjee announced that immersion of Durga puja idols wouldn’t be allowed on October 1 — when Muslims in the state would observe Muharram. The ban was vehemently opposed by Hindu right wing organisations, who called it “yet another example of minority appeasement” by her government.
Acting on a petition questioning the government decision, the Calcutta High Court revoked the state’s directive and allowed the immersion to take place till midnight on all days after Dussehra, including Muharram.
However, under instructions from Banerjee, top bureaucrats and police officers met the media and declared that as per the court order, police permission was needed for immersion on October 1.
“The permission for immersion would be granted as per the judgement of the state administration,” said Home Secretary Atri Bhattacharya.