Mamata Banerjee ‘hurt’ at Bengal tableau’s exclusion at Republic Day parade: How they are selected and past controversies over it

The West Bengal chief minister has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to reconsider the decision after the Centre excluded the tableau, which was set to highlight contributions of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

FP Staff January 17, 2022 16:49:44 IST
Mamata Banerjee ‘hurt’ at Bengal tableau’s exclusion at Republic Day parade: How they are selected and past controversies over it

Tableau of West Bengal passing through the Rajpath as part of the Republic Day Parade in 2019. Press Information Bureau

A political row has erupted over the Centre's decision to exclude West Bengal's tableau, which was set to highlight contributions of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 125th birth anniversary year, from the upcoming Republic Day Parade in Delhi.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying she was “profoundly shocked and hurt” by the decision to “abruptly exclude the proposed tableau of the Government of West Bengal from the ensuing Republic Day Parade”.

So, what’s the big hoopla about? On what basis are tableaux selected for the Republic Day parade and has such an incident taken place in the past? We answer all your questions.

What are tableaux and how are they selected?

Each year at the Republic Day parade, states and various departments of the Centre show their achievements in forms of cutting-edge technology and instruments, or their history and culture in their respective tableau.

The selection process is carried out by the Ministry of Defence in an elaborate and time-consuming exercise.

The ministry constitutes a committee of distinguished persons drawn from various fields to shortlist the best tableau proposals received. This committee comprises of experts from various fields such as art, culture, painting, sculpture, music, architecture and choreography.

The committee examines the proposals on the basis of theme, concept, design and its visual impact before making its recommendations.

There’s a long list of rules that one has to follow for the tableaux. For instance, writing or use of logos on tableaux is not allowed except the name of states or Union Territories that are presenting it on the day of the parade.

Republic Day by Roshneesh K'Maneck on Scribd

Additionally, the number of performers around the tableau will not be more than 10 and they should be from the concerned state/UT only.

What’s Mamata’s grouse?

On 16 January, the Centre announced that the West Bengal tableau would not feature in this year’s Republic Day parade. This decision quickly snowballed into a bigger fight when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to reconsider the decision.

In her letter, she wrote, “The proposed tableau was commemorating the contributions of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his INA on his 125th birth anniversary year and was carrying portraits of some of the most illustrious sons and daughters of this country — Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Sri Aurobindo, Matangini Hazra, Nazrul, Birsa Munda and many patriots.”

Banerjee said that exclusion of the tableau "amounts to belittling and undermining the freedom fighters".

"I may like to inform you that all the people of West Bengal are deeply pained by this attitude of the central government. It is shocking to find that the contribution of its valiant freedom fighters finds no place in the nation's ceremony to celebrate the occasion of the Republic Day on the 75th year of our Independence," she underlined.

The CM insisted that the tableau, if included, would pay homage to all great souls in the most befitting way.

She added that no reason was cited for the tableau's rejection, a move which would cause “pain” to the people of her state.

"I urge you to reconsider the decision and include the tableau of freedom fighters from West Bengal in the Republic Day parade on the 75th year of our Independence. The tableau which showcases the sacrifices and contribution of the lakh of freedom fighters will be the most befitting way to pay our respect and homage to all those great souls who fought for our freedom," she added.

The Congress also expressed its dismay, with its leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury writing to the Centre on the issue.

In his letter to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, he said the decision was an "insult to the people of West Bengal, its cultural heritage and our great hero Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Every state aspires to showcase its cultural tradition and icons during Republic Day so that the public at large at the national level becomes aware of the same."

Kerala’s tableau rejected too

The Kerala government's tableau featuring saint and reformer Sree Narayana Guru has also been rejected by the Centre.

Reportedly, the committee asked Kerala to change it to a monument of Adi Sankaracharya. According to the defence ministry jury, Adi Shankaracharya united the country, but Kerala felt their idea was an ideal representation.

Since Kerala did not make modifications as suggested by the jury, their proposal got rejected. This is the third time that Kerala's tableau is getting rejected in a row.

Former chief minister and Congress legislative party leader Siddaramaiah said the Centre has insulted a great social reformer and sought an apology from them.

Kerala's education minister V Sivankutty, as per a Hindustan Times report, also questioned the Centre's decision.

Past tableau controversies

This is not the first time that a controversy has erupted over the rejection of a tableau.

Last year, the tableau proposals from Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Kerala were rejected, creating a huge row.

The rejection of tableaux of these states did not go down with many politicians, with many alleging a political vendetta at play.

In Bihar, the RJD took a potshot at the NDA government at the Centre for “humiliating” the people of Bihar by dismissing its tableau.

In Maharashtra, NCP leader Supriya Sule said in a tweet, "The Centre has rejected permissions to the tableaux of Maharashtra and West Bengal from parading on Republic Day. It is a festival of the country and the Centre is expected to give representation to all the states, but the government is acting aggressively and is treating the oppressive states with discrimination."

If one looks at the data, these claims would not necessarily hold true as West Bengal has been featured at the R-Day parade six times between 2008 and 2020. Similarly, Kerala too has featured in the parade six times. Maharashtra has been featured in the parade nine times.

Mamata Banerjee hurt at Bengal tableaus exclusion at Republic Day parade How they are selected and past controversies over it

Hence, these allegations of vendetta politics doesn’t hold water. West Bengal qualified for the parade in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Meanwhile, with regards to Maharashtra, it failed to qualify in the years — 2020, 2016, 2013 and 2008.

With inputs from agencies

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