The Centre has dismissed as "baseless" Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's criticism of the BJP-led Central government for excluding the state's tableau from the 2024 Republic Day parade and alleged discrimination.
The AAP leader recently criticised the Central government, accusing it of showing bias against Punjab. He said that both Punjab and Delhi were omitted from the list of States chosen for the tableaux in the 26 January parade.
The Ministry of Defence responded by releasing a statement that explained how tableaux proposals from States, Union territories, and Central ministries or departments are assessed by an "expert committee".
This committee is made up of distinguished individuals from various fields such as art, culture, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, and choreography, among others.
"The tableau proposal of Punjab was considered in first three rounds of meeting of the Expert Committee. After the third round of meeting, the tableau of Punjab could not be taken forward by the Expert Committee for further consideration for not aligning to the broader themes of this year's tableau," it said.
The defence ministry also said that States and UTs not selected for the Republic Day parade 2024 were being invited to showcase their tableaux in Bharat Parv at the Red Fort from 23-31 January in accordance with an MoU signed with the States and UTs.
However, Mann categorically stated that Punjab would not showcase its tableaux in Bharat Parv.
In a post in Punjabi on 'X', Mann said the state's tableau, which was to showcase the sacrifices made by freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Lala Lajpat Rai, will not be sent to 'rejected categories'.
The defence ministry further said that due to the time allotted for tableaux in the overall duration of the parade, shortlisting is done by the expert committee to ensure the participation of the best ones.
For the Republic Day parade 2024, 30 States and UTs had shown willingness to participate, including Punjab and West Bengal, it said.
"Out of these 30 States/UTs, like every year, only 15-16 States/UTs will be finally selected to present their tableaux in the Republic Day Parade 2024," the statement added.
The statement further stated that as per the MoU Punjab and Delhi have signed with the government of India, States have agreed to display their tableau in the Republic Day parade in one of the three years starting from 26 January 2024.
"Hence their criticism of not being selected this year (2024) is not objective and unfounded," it said.
The ministry added that the tableau of Punjab was shortlisted for the Republic Day Parade from 2017 to 2022, six times in the last eight years.
"As States have to be treated equally, it is essential that states should be given the opportunity to display their tableaus as per a formula. Government of India is preparing a three-year programme covering all States/UTs which will be shared with all the States/UTs. Hence, the criticism by these states is baseless," it asserted.
The defence ministry also referred to West Bengal in the statement.
The proposal for West Bengal's tableau was evaluated during the initial two rounds of the Expert Committee's meetings. However, following the second meeting, the committee decided not to proceed with West Bengal's tableau for further consideration, as it did not align with the overarching themes of this year's tableau, according to the statement.
The statement added that West Bengal's tableau was shortlisted in 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023 – five times in the last eight years.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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