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Monday, May 10, 2010

Edition 17 Amitabh CM controversy

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan stood tall again on Sunday night as he showered praise on Maharashtra and Marathi. He said said he was indebted to the state which shaped his destiny and gave him name and fame.
This highlighted the absence of cheif minister Ashok Chavan in the ceremony which marked culmination of biggest event of Maharashtra’s literary calendar. The chief minister skipped the event in a bid not to displease his political bosses in New Delhi.
This has created a ferocious debate in the cultural circle in the Maharashtra. Already, the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan or Marathi Literary Meet has always been encircled with the controversies over whether to invite politicians to the event or not. Some hardcore writers have always argued for non-inclusion of the politicians in the meet. The issue cropped up in the inauguration ceremony itself also when MP Suresh Kalmadi and district guardian minister Ajit Pawar got more prominence than the writers themselves.
In 1974, P. L. Deshpande, the most famous and most loved writer-performer of the state, made it clear that he would preside over the Ichalkaranji literary meet only if ministers and politicians were not allowed to sit on the dais during the proceedings.
The late Yashwantrao Chavan who was a minister in the union cabinet and was known for his love for literature, said he would attend the meet but only as a member in the audience. The following year, emergency was imposed in the country. Yashwantrao Chavan was chairman of the reception committee as the Sahitya Sammelan was being held in his hometown, Karad in Satara district.
The meet was presided by writer and scholar Durga Bhagwat, who urged the gathering to pray for two minutes for Jayprakash Narayan who was leading the crusade against the Emergency and was in poor health. Chavan immediately made a speech criticising Narayan and profusely praising Indira Gandhi.
CM Ashok Chavan was invited to the concluding session of Marathi meet on Sunday. Both Chavan and Bachchan had confirmed their participation in Sunday’s session.He also accepted the invitation. But meanwhile, the CM got into trouble for sharing the stage with Bachchan at the Bandra-Worli sealink inauguration on Wednesday. He was directed by the party leadership that there should not be a repeat of that.
Congress leaders professed objection to Bachchan’s presence was that he is endorsing Gujrat CM Narendra Modi as brand abassador of that state. However, the fact is that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and the actor’s family developed differences two decades ago and because Bachchan is linked to Samajwadi Party also.
This was the reason why instead of coming to Marathi meet on Sunday, Chavan attended the event in Pune on Saturday to avoid sharing the dais with Amitabh Bachchan. As references to his unscheduled visit drew reactions from the audience, Chavan said he felt, for a while, that he was in the assembly.
Even Chavan’s gesture of participating in the seminar0 on freedom of expression went against him as speakers targeted him for not taking a firm stand over the Big B controversy, leaving him squirming.
When he entered the venue on a short notice call, organisers had no option but to accommodate him in an ongoing seminar. They combined two symposiums for the CM’s convenience and one of them had a topic of ‘freedom of expression and social pressures.’
With the controversy over Chavan avoiding sharing dais with Big B still hot, the issue was naturally raised in the debate. The speakers in the seminar targeted Chavan for developing inhibitions.
Shripal Sabnis, a veteran writer said, “Chavan may lose his post if he attends a programme in the presence of Bachchan. It will be political suicide. Aware of his compulsion we should not corner him.”
The entire episode drew the attention from the meet itself and focussed on politics. The three day meet was in the news mainly for wrong reasons. This also raised the question, as to why Amitabh Bachchan was called for the event when he had nothing to do with it. It is really sad that the controversy shadowed the success of meet.

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