UNESCO recognition for Kolkata’s Durga Puja triggers slugfest between TMC, BJP

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Less than a day after the UNESCO added Kolkata’s Durga Puja to its 2021 list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the honour for the 331-year-old city triggered a tussle between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party on the eve of the December 19 Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls.

Addressing voters at back-to-back rallies, chief minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the BJP for campaigning during the March-April assembly polls that she does not allow Durga Puja in many districts to appease the minority community.

“Some people had spread lies against me. They said I do not allow Durga Puja in Bengal. The UNESCO’s recognition has exposed their lies. Their faces have been blackened. I thank the UNESCO. I feel proud that so many of our social welfare projects have attained international recognition. We will elevate Bengal’s image before the world in the coming years,” Banerjee said at a rally in Behala.

The attack on the BJP was unleashed on Wednesday evening by the chief minister’s nephew and TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee who also addressed several rallies on Thursday.

“Two minutes of silence for @AmitShah and all the tall leaders at @BJP4India who, during their pre-election political tours, HILARIOUSLY CLAIMED that DURGA PUJA IS NOT CELEBRATED IN WEST BENGAL. Your BIGOTRY and HOAX has been BUSTED, you stand EXPOSED YET AGAIN!” Abhishek Banerjee tweeted on Wednesday, targeting the Union home minister who campaigned extensively in March-April.

The BJP could win only 77 of the 294 assembly seats against a target of 200.

Countering the young TMC leader, Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar tweeted: “Keep extra 2 minutes silence for yourself, @abhishekaitc, the proposal was sent by Modi govt. Also, your govt tried to impose ban on Durga Puja & now trying to take credit by spreading lies.”

The Bengal BJP also claimed that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who proposed to the UNESCO that Bengal’s Durga Puja should be given a heritage tag.

“Thanks to PM Shri @narendramodi Ji for making this possible, it happened because of the proposal by the central government to include Durga Puja in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage,” tweeted the Bengal BJP.

As many as 36,946 community Durga pujas are organised in Bengal. Of these, around 2,500 are held in Kolkata. According to a study the British Council of India conducted last year, the economic value of the artistic creations and cultural activities during Durga Puja in West Bengal is more than 32,300 crore.

Traditional yoga and the Kumbh Mela got the UNESCO’s recognition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. On Wednesday, the Durga Puja was the only Indian festival to make it to the list of 20 events and traditional activities.

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