As part of the 75th Republic Day parade in Delhi on Friday morning, more than two dozen tableaux, including 16 from states and union territories, will trudge along Kartavya Path. However, Punjab will not be there due to a dispute between the center-left AAP and the ruling party over claims that the state wanted pictures of party leader Arvind Kejriwal and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to be displayed on the float.
The AAP reacted angrily to the tableau, which the BJP’s Punjab unit also derided as “crude” and which celebrated the contributions of freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, and Lala Lajpat Rai.
In response, the AAP charged that the center was biased against a state that was led by the opposition. In response to BJP claims he wanted his picture published, Mr. Mann insisted on seeing evidence of the party’s accusation.
The controversy started last month when Sunil Jakhar, the chief of the BJP’s Punjab unit, claimed that the tableau’s “crude” construction was one of the reasons it was turned down. “AAP was adamant Kejriwal and Mann’s photos should be on it,” he said in reference to the other.
This came after Mr. Mann asserted that excluding Punjab from the national anthem was a step toward doing away with the state. He declared that Delhi would also not have a tableau, adding, “If they get their way, they will take out ‘Punjab’ from the national anthem…”
The national capital is also ruled by the AAP, with Mr Kejriwal the Chief Minister.
It was “unfortunate,” according to Mr. Jakhar, that Mr. Mann had decided to “politicize” the situation. He emphasized that some states dropped their tableaus for “technical reasons” and that not all states fielded a tableau each year.
Nine times in the last seventeen years, Punjab has not had a tableau, he continued.
Over the next few weeks, there was more back-and-forth between Mr. Mann and Mr. Jakhar, the former Congress leader, with Mann jabbing at his opponent, claiming that he had to “read out a script given to him.”
Additionally, Mr. Mann turned down an invitation to field Punjab’s tableau at the Red Fort event in Delhi, known as Bharat Parv.
The centre was accused of attempting to “belittle their contribution and sacrifice of these heroes” by his office, which declared that “great martyrs, including Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Shaheed Sukhdev, Shaheed Udham Singh, Mai Bhago, Ghadri Baabe and others cannot be kept in the rejected category.”
There is a “well-established system” to choose tableaux, according to sources in the Defense Ministry. They explain that submissions for floats are assessed by a committee made up of “eminent persons in fields of art, culture, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, choreography, etc.” and that each is judged according to theme, concept, design, and visual impact.
The committee felt that Punjab’s proposal was not in line with the larger themes of this year’s Republic Day parade, so after three rounds of consideration, it could not move further, according to sources.