Chandra Shekhar Azad Puja pandal that Subodh Kant Sahay will inaugurate on Saturday in Ranchi. (Hardeep Singh)
Coalgate notwithstanding, Ranchi MP and Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay is still top draw — at least as far as inaugurating Durga Puja pandals are concerned — in the capital.
Following him closely in the popularity stakes is Assembly Speaker and Ranchi MLA C.P. Singh. And in this clamour to have the two top politicians by one’s side to grab maximum attention lies the story of political patronage of major Durga Pujas in the city.
“He (read Sahay) has been inaugurating our pandal for years. This year too, he will do the honours,” said a proud Harish Kumar, an executive of Chandra Shekhar Azad puja pandal near Albert Ekka Chowk, which would be opened for devotees on Saturday.
The city office of the Union minister has already received more than 20 invitations to do the honours from pandals across the city. Most would be inaugurated on Saturday, with some slated for a Friday opening.
The capital hosts around 130 pujas, of which around 60 can be termed big and medium. The small pujas rarely bother with celebrity presence at their pandals.
“We expect another 15 invitations in the next two days. Festive days are special and the minister every year makes sure that he joins in the festivities along with the organisers,” said a close aide of Sahay.
The reason could lie in the fact that the majority of the big and medium sized puja pandals are directly controlled by leaders owing allegiance to the Congress, and Sahay.
So, the fact that his name has been dragged into the coal scam has had little impact on the demand for Sahay’s presence at the pandals. Similarly, organisers with BJP leanings prefer to call the Assembly Speaker for the inauguration function.
“Around 10 organisers have asked the local MLA to grace the inauguration ceremony of their pandals. We hope to get at least another 10 invitations in the next two days,” said Singh’s private secretary Sanjiv Gupta.
Some organisers, however, have been known to look beyond Sahay and Singh.
“We have called senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia to inaugurate our pandal this year. Earlier, it used to be inaugurated by C.P. Singh,” said Rahul Agarwal, spokesperson of Bhartiya Yuvak Sangh at Bakri Bazar.
Yet for others, top cops and bureaucrats are the preferred celebrities when it comes to inaugurating pandals.
“Last year too, our pandal was inaugurated by the senior superintendent of police. This year too, the same tradition will continue,” said Krishna Yadav, chief of R.R. Sporting Club on Ratu Road.
However, the spotlight during the biggest show of them all — Ravan dahan at Morabadi grounds —organised by the Punjabi Hindu Biradari, is firmly on the chief minister.
“Chief minister Arjun Munda has given his consent to grace the occasion on Dusshera at 3.30pm,” said Om Kapoor, vice president of Punjabi Hindu Biradari, Ranchi. Munda returns to Ranchi after completing his Johar Yatra on October 20.