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Politics or procedure? What’s behind Bengal-Kerala-Modi govt Republic Day tableaux fracas

New Delhi: After West Bengal and Kerala alleged political vendetta as the reason why the Narendra Modi government rejected their state tableaux for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, government sources clarified Monday that the political leadership has no role to play in their selection or rejection.

Instead, the sources outlined that a committee consisting of “prominent persons” in the fields of painting, sculpture, music, architecture and choreography, among others, are the ones who select or reject tableau ideas.

The sources said for the 2022 Republic Day parade, a total of 56 proposals were received from states and central ministries. Out of these, 21 have been shortlisted.

“It is natural for more proposals to be rejected than those accepted, given the paucity of time,” the sources said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday, urging him to reconsider the decision as people of the state would be “pained” by the rejection of the tableau.

“It is even more baffling for us that the tableau was rejected without assigning any reasons or justifications,” she said.

Banerjee said the proposed tableau was set to commemorate the contributions of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and his Indian National Army. Bose’s 125th birth anniversary will be celebrated three days before Republic Day.

Similarly, the Kerala government is also upset over the rejection of its tableau that was set to feature social reformer and spiritual leader Narayana Guru.

Kerala’s Education Minister, V. Sivankutty, tweeted to condemn the decision, holding it as an “insult towards” Narayana Guru.

However, government sources underlined that it is not the Modi government which decides on the tableaux.

“The tableaux proposals received from various states and central ministries are evaluated in a series of meetings of the expert committee of eminent personalities,” a source said.

Also read: Foreign dignitary unlikely at Republic Day parade, 24,000 people to be in attendance

How tableaux are selected

In September every year, the defence ministry writes to all 36 states and Union territories and central ministries, asking for tableau proposals for the next year’s Republic Day.

According to the letter issued on 16 September 2021, the proposals were to be sent in by 27 September, and the selection process was to have begun by the second week of October.

Once submitted, proposals for the tableaux are evaluated in a series of meetings of the expert committee.

In the first phase of selection, the sketches/designs of the proposals will be scrutinised and suggestions, if any, will be given to carry out modifications, the letter issued in September said.

Once the designs are approved, participants are asked to submit 3D models of their proposals.

However, being asked for a model does not mean selection, as they are further examined by the committee.

“The selection depends upon a combination of factors including, but not limited to, visual appeal, impact on the masses, idea/theme of the tableau, degree of detailing involved in the tableau, music accompanying it etc,” the letter stated.

It also said that final selection of a tableau does not guarantee its movement on Rajpath in the final parade, if it has not been created according to the final approved version during the selection round.

‘Accepted earlier through same process’

The proposals of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal were rejected by the Subject Expert Committee after due process and due deliberations, the sources said.

It should be, however, noted that the tableaux proposals of Kerala were accepted through the same process and system under the same Modi government in 2018 and 2021, the sources insisted.

Similarly, tableaux proposals by Tamil Nadu were accepted in 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“It should be also noted that the tableaux proposals of West Bengal were accepted through the same process and system under the same Modi government in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021. Furthermore, this year’s tableau of CPWD (Central Public Works Department) includes Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, so the question of insult to him does not even arise,” a source said.

Defence ministry has no direct role

While the defence ministry made no statement, sources said it had no role to play in selection of the tableaux.

“The tableaux are presented by states, central ministries and public sector undertakings. Not everyone can be selected and hence some miss out. Because of Covid restrictions, the numbers are reduced further. The MoD has no direct role in selection and it is the expert committee which looks into various parameters,” a source in the defence ministry told ThePrint.

Asked why West Bengal was left out, the source said, “West Bengal won the best tableau in 2016. West Bengal tableaux were there in 2017, 2019 and last year as well. This is an unnecessary controversy which is generated almost every other year.”

In the past too, there have been controversies regarding rejection of tableaux, including those of West Bengal and Maharashtra in 2020.

Asked about the rejection of Kerala’s Narayana Guru tableau, the source said, “Each parade has a theme. This year the theme is about 75 years of independence — India @ 75, freedom struggle, Ideas @ 75, Achievements @ 75, Actions @ 75 and Resolve @ 75.”

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: Questions were raised over 2021 Republic Day parade. But there’s no better timing

Source: The Print

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