In what could spark fresh tensions between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the BJP-led centre, the Union Ministry of Defence on Wednesday rejected her state’s tableau proposal for the Republic Day parade on January 26.
“The tableau proposal of West Bengal government was examined by the expert committee in two rounds of meetings. The tableau proposal of the West Bengal government was not taken forward for further consideration by the committee after deliberations in the second meeting,” the ministry said in its statement.
On the other hand, 22 proposals comprising 16 states and union territories and six ministries and departments have been shortlisted for the parade. The shortlist was compiled from as many as 56 tableau proposals — 32 from states and union territories and 24 from various ministries and departments — received by the central government.
“The expert committee examines the proposals on the basis of theme, concept, design and visual impact before making its recommendations. Due to time constraints arising out of the overall duration of the parade, only a limited number of tableaux can be shortlisted for participation in the parade,” the statement read, adding that West Bengal was shortlisted for the 2019 Republic Day parade through a similar process.
Sources in the Bengal government said they are yet to receive official confirmation of their tableau’s selection. “We gave many proposals on the theme of developmental works in Bengal, including a model on saving water. We hoped it will be approved,” an official said.
The Trinamool Congress-led Bengal government is at loggerheads with the central government over several issues, and the expanding presence of the BJP in the eastern state ahead of the 2021 assembly elections has further intensified their rivalry.
Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly said that she will not allow Bengal to be a part of the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens, an assertion that the BJP claims is proof of her minority appeasement strategy. Last month, a four-member delegation of Trinamool Congress politicians that visited BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh to meet families of those killed in violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were stopped by police personnel at the Lucknow airport.
The BJP leadership has now decided to launch a campaign blitzkrieg in West Bengal to counter what it claims is the Trinamool’s “misinformation programmes” against the amended citizenship law and reach out to refugees. Protests across the country have currently put the party on the backfoot.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, for the first time, makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution before 2015. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principals of the Constitution.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
(With inputs from ANI)