An already broke Maharashtra treasury shall be depleted further, as the BJP has made up its mind on organising an opulent swearing-in ceremony for new Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his top cabinet ministers at the Wankhede Stadium.

Art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai points at a plan of the Wankhede stadium, during a discussion with CM-designate Devendra Fadnavis and other senior BJP leaders yesterday. Pics/Deepak Salvi
Art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai points at a plan of the Wankhede stadium, during a discussion with CM-designate Devendra Fadnavis and other senior BJP leaders yesterday. Pics/Deepak Salvi

The state protocol department is at its wits’ end trying to cater to the whims of the ruling party for the event on Friday that is set to be attended by the PM, party boss Amit Shah, other senior party leaders and the who’s who from the corporate and film business.

BJP CM-designate Devendra Fadnavis (centre), along with leaders Vinod Tawde (left) and Ashish Shelar and art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai (right), who has been hired to create the decor for the event
BJP CM-designate Devendra Fadnavis (centre), along with leaders Vinod Tawde (left) and Ashish Shelar and art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai (right), who has been hired to create the decor for the event

The party has demanded that two podiums be put up for the ceremony – one to accommodate its ministers and top party leaders, and another to seat top corporate bosses and Bollywood celebrities.

The department, as yet, has agreed to erect a huge stage admeasuring 150 feet x 30 feet. Ace art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai has been roped in to supervise the decor and entire look of the stage.

BJP’s plan to appoint Desai met with stiff resistance from the department, as engaging such services requires a bidding process as per government rules. “Though we resisted, the party leaders got him on their own,” said the official. Sources added the party might pay Desai from their own funds.

Pulling out all stops
On the big stage, the BJP wants to seat its chief ministers, deputy chief ministers, state ministers, MPs and legislators, along with party bigwigs from other states and its central office bearers. The first row here will have 15 VVIPs, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his senior colleagues from the cabinet and party chief Amit Shah.

“This is the first time that the state is witnessing such a grand ceremony that will have thousands of people attending,” said a protocol department official. The department is upset at the ever-rising list of demands, some of which seek to bypass protocol that was followed even by the PM’s ceremony, all for the sake of grandeur.

As per the norms, nobody except the Governor and the CM-designate occupies a chair on the stage. Here, other leaders have also been included in the august setting. “Even when PM Modi was sworn in, it was only President Pranab Mukherjee who was at the centre stage.

Only after taking oath did Modi join him, while other ministers were being sworn in,” the official added. Sources said BJP’s office bearers wanted another stage built to accommodate big names from the corporate and film world. State officials are trying hard to convince the party that such practices are not followed in oath-taking ceremonies.

The party was also willing to organise a special show by well-known folk artiste Ashok Hande, on the cultural legacy of Maharashtra. But, the department put its foot down, saying it was not a party event and such a show had never been allowed in the past. Nearly 200 VVIPs and VIPs are expected to attend the ceremony.

‘State’ of affairs
Protocol officials are also having a hard time dealing with the issue of according the honour of a ‘state guest’ to BJP bigwigs coming from other states. As per the rulebook, only union cabinet ministers, CMs and deputy CMs from other states are given such a status.

And, it entails set protocol during arrival and departure, transportation and accommodation. Sources said it is not possible to give the honour to so many people. As the state guesthouse, Sahyadri, will be reserved for the PM and his staff, officials are trying to accommodate dignitaries at a seven-star hotel and two five-star hotels in south Mumbai.

“The function, in any case, is going to cost a few crores, at a time when the state is overburdened with a loan of nearly Rs 3 lakh crore,” quipped an official. The department had also suggested that the ceremony be held on Sunday, in order to not mar traffic movement. However, the party insisted on holding it on Friday.

Now the onus is on the police to control the traffic as well as the movement of VVIPs, along with their arrival and departure on busy day like Friday, a source said.