Bajaar down, Didi's dole lifts Puja spirits

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has announced a dole and waivers for all Puja organisers across Bengal, appealing to them not to "give into temptations from outside" and seeking to blunt the minority appeasement charge in the run-up to the general election.

By Our Bureau in Calcutta
  • Published 11.09.18
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Mamata Banerjee. Source: Shutterstock

Calcutta: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has announced a dole and waivers for all Puja organisers across Bengal, appealing to them not to "give into temptations from outside" and seeking to blunt the minority appeasement charge in the run-up to the general election.

Each of the 28,000 Puja committee will be given a grant of Rs 10,000 each, which, the chief minister estimated, would cost the state exchequer Rs 28 crore. (See chart)

Mamata indirectly linked the payout to the grim economic situation for which the Narendra Modi government is under a concerted attack from the Opposition now.

" Bajaar monda. Bairey lobh dyakhaleyo samarpan korben na (The markets are down. Don't give into temptations from outside)," Mamata said, without mentioning either the BJP or the government it heads at the Centre. "Don't get sold to others."

"I may not visit every Puja pandal because of time constraints. But I do watch the Puja round-up on television channels. Remember, Didi is involved with every Puja," she said.

At a pre-Puja coordination meeting with the organisers, Mamata said this was a " samanyo (little) contribution" to the clubs and Puja organisers, drawing thunderous applause.

It is a "gift" aimed at "community development", she explained.

"This is not a small amount. Aar kichhu na hok mota kapor aar mota bhaat toh ditey paari (If nothing else, I can at least offer rice and cloth). I have done as much as I could do. Puja is Bengal's national festival," Mamata told the audience at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

The chief minister also waived the licence fee that Puja organisers were required to pay for different services, including that of the fire force, and increased the discount on power tariff from 20 per cent to 23 per cent.

Several small-budget Puja organisers lauded the move, saying each committee is likely to save around Rs 15,000. "This is a tremendous help. The prices of all puja commodities have gone up. We have been struggling," said the secretary of a small-budget Puja organiser in Kasba.

The Opposition, including the BJP and the Left, described the move as another instance of appeasement.

"It would have made more sense if she decided to spend it on the welfare of the poor in Bengal," said Rahul Sinha, BJP's vice-president in Bengal.

The CPM called the move "competitive communalism". "First they burdened common taxpayers with fuel prices, then they started paying doles to local clubs and now they are paying crores to the Puja committees. This is an example of competitive communalism that will have a very bad impact on the state," CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said.