It's one of the most anticipated events on Mumbai's cultural calendar, but it seems like British band Coldplay's concert in the city — scheduled for 19 November — could be in jeopardy.
Coldplay's Mumbai performance is part of the Global Citizen Festival, and the line-up also includes rap mogul Jay-Z, Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan, Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif et al.
While some tickets to the event have been sold, a major chunk had to be 'earned' by concertgoers by undertaking philanthropic pledges/activities to help alleviate poverty — the Global Citizen NGO's stated goal. Funds raised from the concert are directed towards charity.
Opposition parties in Maharashtra have alleged that the BJP-led state government was trying to derive political mileage ahead of local civic polls from the Coldplay concert.
Congress Mumbai unit president Sanjay Nirupam called upon state election commissioner JS Saharia and demanded that the concert either be postponed in the view of the election code of conduct being in force or given permission after the poll process is completed.
Nirupam's contention is that the state government is a strategic partner in the event, which has Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a special guest, and is to be held at the MMRDA grounds.
"The election code of conduct is in force in most of the state as polls to municipal councils and nagar panchayats will be held in four phases starting later this month. The government is an active participant and has invested in the event. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has issued invitations for the event and the Global Citizen India website also mentions Maharashtra government as a strategic partner," Nirupam stated in his representation to the state election commissioner.
He further alleged that CM Fadnavis, who heads Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), has granted 75 per cent concession for the gig for use of its ground in the Bandra Kurla Complex without any policy decision. "Entertainment tax has also been waived," Nirupam said.
He said the government was investing in such events to "influence voters" during election time. "
"The Coldplay event (should) either be postponed in view of the election code of conduct or given permission after the election process is completed. Otherwise, the Commission should ensure that there are no political speeches and that political leaders are not present on the dais," he demanded.
However, an Indian Express report pointed out that while a code of conduct has been imposed across Maharashtra as elections to 212 local bodies are underway, the restrictions are not applicable in Mumbai, where the civic elections are scheduled for early next year.
The Asian Age reported in its edition dated 4 November that Global Citizen will have to pay only Rs 2 crore as rent for setting up the stage for the concert instead of the usual rate of Rs 8 crore. The ground has been booked for three days, with the stage being set up on 18 November 18 and dismantled on the 20th.
Organisers of events that are meant to raise social awareness are eligible for a 70 per cent discount on rent/related charges.
The Age quoted Niranjan Shetty, chief spokesperson for BJP Mumbai as saying: "The Congress has no important issue to raise hence such futile attempts are being made by them. It's foolish to think that a music concert can influence voters.”
Global Citizen had issued a statemetn regarding this issue. Here's what they said:
"We are deeply disappointed that this work is being caught in the middle of politics as usual. Our platform aims to unify and bring together all stakeholders, catalysing the youth using popular culture, to ensure India takes on a leadership role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Minister Suresh Prabhu, CM Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister P Vijayan, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Congress Leader Smt. Meira Kumar, MP Jairam Ramesh, MP Poonam Mahajan, Shiv Sena Youth Wing Chief Aditya Thackeray, Former MEA Salman Khurshid, Congress Leader Milind Deora, are some of the leaders who Global Citizens have called on, whose achievements have been highlighted, and who have made commitments in response to the voice of young India and who have championed issues.
We are working with many more leaders across the spectrum to get them to make commitments and join this movement. We look forward to welcoming a number of them at the Global Citizen India Festival on November 19th."
— With PTI inputs