City Sunday

Tableau politics

In a highly polarised atmosphere over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the antagonism between the ruling BJP and the protesting Opposition is spilling over into every sphere involving Centre-State relations. So it is that the Bengal, Kerala, Bihar and Maharashtra Governments are complaining that their floats for the Republic Day have been rejected as part of the Centre’s political vendetta because they have been criticising identity-based politics.
Out of the six States whose proposals have been rejected, four are ruled by the Opposition parties. The Centre claims that floats were allotted on a rotational basis and since the excluded States had made the cut last year through the same screening process, nothing much should be made of it. But by the same logic, nobody can explain why certain States should be repeated year after year. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, no stranger to making political capital out of culture issues, quickly claimed that Bengal’s artistic expressions were some of the finest but were being held hostage to stifle her voice on the CAA and NRC.
Similarly, the Shiv Sena, which is leading an alliance government in Maharashtra, feels it is being punished for dumping the BJP because a fair review would not have disqualified a State which has been showcasing the work of students of the JJ School of Art over the years. While the two cases do seem contextual, the fact is politics over R-Day tableaux happens every year, no matter which party is in power. During the UPA-led Congress rule, Andhra Pradesh did not get a chance to present its floats for four consecutive years. Similar was the case for Jharkhand. Maharashtra’s tableaux have been rejected nine times.
Tableaux are a cultural showcase of India’s diversity and pride and should be above narrow political considerations. The selection criteria should be made transparent. Considering time constraints for such an extravaganza, a rotational procedure of 32 States, where representation could perhaps follow alphabetical order, could ensure fairness. Maybe all criteria can be done away with by getting States to work on common themes for tableaux or even front them with live acts by respective folk artistes.
While States conduct their own R-Day events, the Delhi one solemnises the union of States. Tableaux represent the stakeholdership of the States in the Union and they should be treated right and with a certain pride. A new format of cooperative federalism could be worked on. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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