Republic Day Parade Politics: What’s Common Between Kerala, Maharashtra, and West Bengal?

Politics

Republic Day Parade Politics: What’s Common Between Kerala, Maharashtra, and West Bengal?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

In the last few weeks of the previous decade, the Indian Constitution has overtaken Ranveer Singh’s velvet pants as the most revered relic in the country. Overlooking the fact that Singh looked totally fab, students and other well-meaning individuals from across the country have instead been focusing their attention on the threat the ruling party is imposing on our Constitution, specifically the bits of The Preamble concerning Secularism and Equality, through the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act.

The protesters have refused to let the festive season hold the movement back, as the brave women in Shaheen Bagh and the massive New Year’s Eve protests in Kochi proved. All through these demonstrations, horrific headlines have also been streaming in from all over our nation, particularly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the latest states to face the wrath of violent police officers. For months social media has been rejecting what comedian Kunal Kamra calls Modiji’s attempts to “demonetise humans”.

Just a few days later, in another decade, things are heating up over a different issue. Rather than acknowledge the opposition to its Act, the ruling party has apparently decided to start “demonetising states” that don’t agree with them as well. And they couldn’t have picked a more telling time to do this than the one day that’s set aside to celebrate the aforementioned Constitution — Republic Day.

Mamata Banerjee has been leading massive rallies to protest the CAA-NRC, and CPI(M) leader and Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, has flat out refused to implement the Act in his state.

This Republic Day, the tableaux presented by three states — West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra — have been rejected by the Centre. In possibly the pettiest move since Dramatic K-Serial Saas #4237 cut holes in her bahu’s saari, the BJP said the states didn’t follow the rules, and would instead feature the floats of only 16 states.

At first, this snub could be seen as an innocent move, especially considering a few Congress-ruled states’ submissions have been included. That is, until you realise that there might be a reason these three particular states have been left out — West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee has been leading massive rallies to protest the CAA-NRC, and CPI(M) leader and Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, has flat out refused to implement the Act in his state. That Maharashtra was left out too is a no-brainer, considering it was home to one of the biggest upsets in BJP history, after Shiv Sena promised them the vada pav and left them with just the pav in the recent Assembly elections. 

Kerala ministers claim that the BJP have an issue with the backwaters, elephants, Kathakali, and boats, ironically leaving the state with no option to show off their culture other than beef chilli. This feeling of being left out is not new for Kerala, which didn’t make it to the parade last year as well, allegedly because its home to all the chief anti-nationals, such as Rahul Gandhi.

Uttar Pradesh’s tableau — one that should technically feature policemen standing menacingly in front of a picture of the Ram Mandir, but probably features something less offensive, like Kumbh Mela — has been approved. The tableau proposed by Bihar, meanwhile, which is ruled by the RJD-BJP coalition, has not. While there hasn’t been an official statement from the state government, reports suggest RJD leaders have been making fun of the move in private.

In a series of tweets in Marathi, Sule called Republic Day a “festival of the country” and said she was offended that BJP was not giving equal representation to all the states.

Maharashtra’s ruling coalition doesn’t seem to have taken the news as well as RJD, though, with several leaders, including NCP’s Supriya Sule and Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut tweeting about the exclusion. In a series of tweets in Marathi, Sule called Republic Day a “festival of the country” and said she was offended that BJP was not giving equal representation to all the states. Raut cryptically added: “Are there elements having loyalty to previous government? There may not be. But this has to be probed.”

The administration in Bengal too was not pleased: “The rejection of the West Bengal tableau for the Republic Day parade is discriminatory. It has been done because West Bengal has been opposing the CAA-NRC,” TMC MP Saugata Roy said.

Meanwhile, apart from the 15 or so states that have been selected to showcase their tableaux, the Centre has also made time for the Departments for Promotion of Industry, the Drinking Water and Sanitation, and the Central Public Works Department, which, of course, is a dream come true for every aspiring IAS officer.

Don’t worry about the Centre making this Republic Day a boring affair, though. There’s still the fact that the president of Brazil and cheap, Donald Trump knock-off Jair Bolsonaro has been invited for the parade. You’ll soon forget about the lovely wildlife in Wayanad, as the honorable chief guest regales us with stories about how he looked away while an entire rainforest burned, or hands out tips on groping reporters on camera without going to jail. So at least we’ll learn something new.

Still, there seems to be something fishy about how the apolitical event that is Republic Day has suddenly acquired a political flavour. Maybe things would have gone smoother if Maharashtra had instead submitted a tableau featuring cows praising bullet trains, or Bengal went with a giant image of Albert Einstein taking the L. Maybe we can all agree that that’s a country that makes us proud.

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