Festival headlined by Coldplay caught in a political tug of war
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Mumbai: The brouhaha over Global Citizen India’s Mumbai festival on 19 November is centred around three points.
One, the concessions allegedly offered by the Maharashtra government, which is Global Citizen’s strategic partner, for the festival.
Two, is the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leveraging this strategic partnership to politically exploit the event?
And three, is Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the festival, which also features the star attraction of popular British band Coldplay performing live?
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said in response to a Mint question that “the Prime Minister may come for the Global Citizen, not Coldplay”.
A statement issued by Global Citizen India said “it was in continuous dialogue with the state government on a number of issues and we look forward to the full support and co-operation from our host partners, the government of Maharashtra”.
However, the statement does not answer the question if the PM is attending the event.
A Mumbai BJP leader said on condition of anonymity the prime minister “may want to attend the event because Global Citizen offers an opportunity to amplify Prime Minister’s favourite themes of gender equality and sanitation”.
This leader said the BJP is keen the Prime Minister’s presence at the festival is seen “as a token of support to Global Citizen’s non-profit initiatives like poverty elimination, education, and awareness especially among youths about the developmental goals”.
“There has been so much of discussion over the PM’s presence for the rock concert, but Coldplay concert is only one of the several segments of the 6-hour event. Global Citizen has roped in Coldplay artists and many Indian actors and stars for the event to raise awareness among the youth. If at all the PM attends the festival, it will be purely for promoting the social and global initiatives,” said the BJP leader.
The Global Citizen India website lists many Bollywood stars, celebrities, and sportspersons, including Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, and Aamir Khan, “to headline the festival”. The organization says it has issued 35,000 free tickets to global citizens who are engaged in over 1.6 million activities in support of education, gender equality, water, sanitation and hygiene.
The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra have alleged the state has waived rent for Global Citizen to use the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) ground in Bandra Kurla Complex for the festival.
Fadnavis heads MMRDA, and the opposition has claimed the ground rent has been waived under pressure from the PM office.
The state has also been accused of heavily reducing entertainment duty on the festival. Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam even met Maharashtra election commissioner last week to demand election code of conduct, operative in large parts of Maharashtra due to local body polls, be made applicable to the festival so that the BJP does not “politically exploit the event”.
Nirupam also demanded the event itself be postponed, triggering outrage on social media. Even former Mumbai Congress MP Milind Deora, a music aficionado and guitar player, tweeted against banning the festival.
The Congress charge resulted in the party being roundly ridiculed on social media. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik recalled how the Shiv Sena-BJP government in 1995 had organized a similar concert by Michael Jackson and waived off entertainment duty. “It was organized apparently to create employment; but to date, the Sena and BJP have not bothered to inform us as to how much employment was generated by the Michael Jackson concert,” Malik said.
The statement by Global Citizen says “there has been no formal communication from the government on the status of the waiver”.
BJP’s Mumbai North Central MP Poonam Mahajan has been associated with Global Citizen. Mahajan did not respond to a text message sent to her phone.