Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why this fuss over Mysore Utsav?

Thought we’re in a free country where anyone is free to organize a utsav; and anyone else is free to oppose it.Which, in a democracy, is the prerogative of opposition netas. Shouldn’t we, the freedom-loving citizens, recognise the right of a bunch of political has-beens to protest the upcoming Mysore Utsav (July 26-29)? I only wish they raise objections that are credible.

The opponents of proposed utsav say 1)it is an attempt to dim the glory of Mysore Dasara; and 2) it is not proper to hold the utsav at a time when farmers are facing financial hardship. No, these objections are not my invention. They are credited to a former minister Mr H Vishwanath. Equally inventive is the justification the utsav organizers trot out for holding the four-day festival – “to foster a great tradition, culture and heritage of the royal city”.

And what have they lined up to uphold this heritage? Free screening of Rajkumar films, a fashion show to promote Mysore silk, a kite-flying event and filmy music by Shaan and Udit Narayan. Sure, they would be fun. But I’m not sure if these cinema-based events help “foster a great tradition and culture”. And there is no mention of involvement of the person who has a very personal stake in sustaining the city’s royal image. Mr Wadyar and the palace appears nowhere in the organisers' scheme of things.

Instead, someone who anchors TV programmes, Mr Deepak Thimmaiah, held forth at a Hotel Metropole press meet in the run-up to the Mysore Utsav. Insisting that it is a purely private affair, Mr Thimmaiah spoke of the initiative being taken by the minister in charge of Mysore district, Mr G T Deve Gowda. Presumably, there is no contradiction or clash of interests here; and presumably,there is nothing in the ministerial code of conduct precluding Mr Gowde from proactive participation in a privately sponsored mega mela.

Considering that the utsav is likely to cost at least Rs.2.5 crores it makes business sense to involve someone with official clout to attract sponsors. According to Mr Thimmaiah, the four-day utsav will be managed and marketed by TV House (rather naïve of me not to have heard of such corporate entity) If better known companies are sponsoring the event, the spokesman didn’t mention them at the Metropole press conference.

The Hindu reports that the mega event is being opposed by many political parties because they reckon it would “affect the prospects of Dasara”. I have a theory on the prospects of Dasara 2007. Prevailing uncertainty over Janata Dal (Secular) intentions regarding its commitment to hand over the government to BJP this October is bound to impact the plans for the state-sponsored Dasara. For the city corporation and some departments such as public works, tourism, horticulture Dasara is all about grants. Last year these departments had put in demands for nearly Rs. 25 crores. They have reason to be concerned about allocations this year. Lower grants; not much of Dasara.

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