Calcutta, Feb. 5: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said the landmarks of Bengal’s culture were “on their knees”, striking at the root of a theme close to Mamata Banerjee’s heart.
“Kichhu hocche na sanskritir jagate (nothing is happening in the world of culture). Nandan, Bangla Akademi are on their knees... in very bad shape,” Bhattacharjee said. “The things that have started in the cultural sphere… (amount to) darkness.”
He termed “baseless” allegations of politicisation of cultural institutions, naming stalwarts who had been at the helm of such organisations when he was chief minister.
“During my time Satyajit Ray and Tarun Majumdar were chairmen of Nandan. (Writer) Annada Shankar Ray, (sculptor) Chintamoni Kar and (poet) Nirendranath Chakraborty were at the helm of Bangla Akademi and other cultural institutions…. I had managed to keep every cultural institution at their pinnacle,” Bhattacharjee said during an interview with ABP Ananda last evening.
But does he miss Nandan and Writers’? “I don’t miss it much and I have had to change my habit. I’m primarily from politics. In politics, it is most important to go to the people. It’s a problem if I’m not able to do that. I’m not at Writers’, not at Nandan… not there,” he said.
Asked about chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s comments that charushilpa (fine arts) and industry were the same, Bhattacharjee smiled and said: “It is our misfortune, you might say, that the person at the helm of our state says both are industry — because they are called shilpa in Bengali. She is trying to merge the two, the arts and industry. When she does that, you can tell she hasn’t understood any of them.”
He made the remarks in reference to Mamata’s initiative to blur the lines between industry and art with the Bengali equivalent shilpa that denotes both.
Asked about festivals being organised by the government, Bhattacharjee said: “At an industry fair, people sell nuts and puffed rice (muri) and she says it generates jobs… One paper, an English paper, had written about it. They compared her theory with that of (John Maynard) Keynes. Before the war, in 1929-30, there was a worldwide depression. Keynes had shown a way to recover from the Great Depression, how to create jobs…. Can you compare that with trying to revitalise the economy by selling muri? Our misfortune that we are having to hear all this.”
Bhattacharjee accused the chief minister of running a club instead of a government.
“Soirees organised by the neighbourhood have become state-sponsored events. Crores of rupees are being spent.Violence and anti-social activities have increased in localities. What’s the priority of the government?” he asked.