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Coldplay’s much-awaited Mumbai concert runs into trouble!

Congress went ahead and complained to the State Election Commission (SEC) demanding that the event be postponed until after the ongoing civic elections process in the state.

Fifteen days before the much-awaited and much-hyped British rock band Coldplay’s concert in Mumbai, the opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) attacked the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for waiving  entertainment tax and rentals for the concert.

Undeniably, one of the most anticipated events in Mumbai’s cultural calendar, a concert organized as a part of the Global Citizen Festival, the show had been total sellout. Only a handful of tickets were sold and the rest were to be ‘earned’ by concertgoers by undertaking philanthropic pledges/activities to help alleviate poverty — the Global Citizen NGO’s stated goal. Funds raised from the concert are to be used for charity.

Reportedly, the concert will feature performances by Jay Z and a host of Bollywood celebrities including Aamir Khan, A.R. Rahman, Arjun Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Kareena Kapoor-Khan, Katrina Kaif, Malaika Arora-Khan, Ranveer Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, Shraddha Kapoor, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vijender Singh et al.

The trouble had cropped up when the Congress went ahead and complained to the State Election Commission demanding that the event–in which the Maharashtra government is a ‘strategic partner’–be postponed until the ongoing civic electoral process got over in the state.

The Congress-NCP said the Devendra Fadnavis government has tried to derive political mileage from the concert ahead of local civic polls. Sanjay Nirupam, the Mumbai Congress president, called upon State Election Commissioner JS Saharia and demanded that the concert either be postponed in the view of the election code of conduct being in force or given permission after the poll process is completed. He contended that the state government is a strategic partner in the event, which has Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a special guest, and is to be held at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) grounds.

“The election code of conduct is in force in most of the state as polls to municipal councils and nagar panchayats will be held in four phases starting later this month. The government is an active participant and has invested in the event. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has issued invitations for the event and the Global Citizen India website also mentions Maharashtra government as a strategic partner,” Nirupam stated in a letter to the SEC.

He further alleged that CM Fadnavis, who heads MMRDA, has granted 75 per cent concession for the gig for use of its ground in the Bandra Kurla Complex without any policy decision.

He said the government was investing in such events to “influence voters” during election time. “”The state government has granted the organisers 75 per cent concession on the rent for the MMRDA Ground, Bandra East, and waived off entertainment tax for the event. This is a waste of public money and such concessions are not granted to other organisations,” he added.

Moreover, he pointed out, organising entertainment shows at public expense is tantamount to influencing the voters and the platform would be exploited politically in the ongoing civic elections season.

Nirupam urged SEC to probe how the concert was granted so many concessions during the election season and that the show must be brought under the ambit of Election Commission code of conduct.

Nawab Malik, NCP state spokesperson lashed out at the concert, questioning the need to bring the rock band to Maharashtra in the first place.

“Farmers are committing suicide here, there are issues of unemployment and other matters. Amid all this, they are bringing Coldplay–for what? Will Coldplay remove unemployment like the Michael Jackson show?” Malik said sarcastically, and added, “How can a band from Britain alleviate poverty from India? They don’t deserve concession. But let it be clear that we are not against Coldplay. The way the government is giving concessions so rampantly is wrong. We’re just saying don’t fool us in the name of erasing poverty.”

“The Coldplay event (should) either be postponed in view of the election code of conduct or given permission after the election process is completed. Otherwise, the Commission should ensure that there are no political speeches and that political leaders are not present on the dais,” Nirupam demanded.

It is to be noted that Indian Express pointed out in a report that while a code of conduct has been imposed across Maharashtra as elections to 212 local bodies are underway, the restrictions are not applicable in Mumbai, where the civic elections are scheduled for early next year.

The Asian Age reported that Global Citizen will have to pay only Rs 2 crore as rent for setting up the stage for the concert instead of the usual rate of Rs 8 crore. The ground has been booked for three days, with the stage being set up on November 18 and dismantled on the 20th.

It has been noted that organisers of events that are meant to raise social awareness are eligible for a 70 per cent discount on rent/related charges.

The Age quoted Niranjan Shetty, chief spokesperson for BJP Mumbai: “The Congress has no important issue to raise hence such futile attempts are being made by them. It’s foolish to think that a music concert can influence voters.”

There has been no statement issued by Global Citizen about the objections regarding Coldplay concert so far.

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