All is well, that ends well, one may have considered towards the fag end of the Budget Assembly session, a session that saw more controversies off the hallowed precincts of the House. The mediation of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant appeared to have doused the flames of political rivalries between Canacona MLA Ramesh Tawadkar and Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude with even a privilege motion against Prakash Velip, a known supporter of Gaude, covertly withdrawn.
However, on Saturday, the animosity between the two leaders came to the fore yet again. The 5th Kala Utsav 2024 organised by a club at Indrawada-Gaondongrim in association with the Art and Culture Department, which was to be inaugurated by Gaude, was called off at the eleventh hour on account of an invitation issue. Locals admit that controversy erupted after Tawadkar, in whose constituency the event was organised, did not figure in the guest list prompting furious reactions from the MLA ultimately leaving the hosts with no other option but to cancel the event.
Kala Utsav at Indrawada has had an encouraging response for the last four years drawing in dance performers and cultural troupes from different parts of Goa and Maharashtra showcasing traditional dances like Fugdi, Jagor, Dhalo, Ghodemodni, Diwali Nach, Musal Dance besides others. Not only have the organisers laboured for months to put this event together, the contestants too put in hours of practice and toil preparing for the Utsav. Moreover, most of the troupes had drawn up their itinerary and made travel plans, especially those from Maharashtra. All of this came to an abrupt end.
The politics playing behind the curtains of Kala Utsav is apparently a sequel to the Gaude-Tawadkar saga. Last week, an audio clip went viral with the art and culture minister livid and using filthy language against the tribal welfare director for hosting an event in his home constituency of Priol without engaging him. This followed quickly after Tawadkar openly charged Gaude with embezzlement of funds.
It is appalling that art and culture have been the sacrificial lamb at the altar of tribal politics. The cancellation of the event highlights that politics has won over culture and all the artists who have been torch-bearers of festivals. It is not only disrespectful to these stage artists but to the State and all those who have made sacrifices of time, money and hard work to keep these traditions alive.
The worrying side of this is the fact that our culture is not dying for the dearth of talent, but is being killed for selfish political advantages and electoral gains. Unfortunately, the very political leaders who stand tall on podiums giving chest-thumping speeches about preserving culture promoting diversity and forging unity are the very faces that are choking culture.
If there was genuine love for culture, political leaders should have shunned egos or thrashed their inflated egos outside this platform and upheld the sanctity of the stage. Inviting or not inviting a particular political leader cannot be the reason to call off an entire festival. It's disgraceful.
Politicos indulging in such one-upmanship leave an irreparable dent in the morale and confidence of not just the performers, but the audience at large. Sawant must intervene immediately so that there are no repeats of such political tamashas. Art and Culture will be the biggest loser if such rivalries continue to infringe upon our traditional festivals.