British rock band Coldplay’s much awaited appearance at a concert this month in Mumbai had run into some trouble recently thanks to some fringe outfits.
The concert, announced earlier in September grabbed media attention when rumours surfaced claiming that tickets would be priced between Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 5 lakh. Later on, the organisers of the event, Global Citizen confirmed that a majority of the tickets would be available free of cost while around one-fifth of them would be available for sale at rather high prices, intended for VIPs. Global Citizen, on their website, describes itself as a “Social Action Platform” to solve social problems with an aim to end Global Poverty by 2030.
The concert held on 19 November in Mumbai, featured Coldplay as the lead act. Interspersed with the music, were global leaders, social workers, celebrities and business magnates, promoting the 3 sustainable development goals chosen by India, as well as pledging crores of rupees in support to these social causes. Global Citizen’s CEO Hugh Evans, states that the concert is a result of meetings between Coldplay’s lead vocalist Chris Martin (also GC’s Creative Director) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, the run up to the concert was not smooth. It attracted opposition from two political parties, and the shocking fact is that neither the Shiv Sena nor the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena were among those.
Spokesperson of the Congress, (which has been reduced to a fringe outfit electorally), Sanjay Nirupam, who had termed the Surgical Strike conducted by the Indian Army “fake”, had complained to the State Election Commission asking for the concert to be scrapped, citing it violated the Code of Conduct for the Upcoming Civic Elections.
He alleged that the BJP-led Government of Maharashtra, which had given a 75% concession to the organisers to hold the event at MMRDA Grounds in Bandra-Kurla Complex. He claimed that the BJP was using this for political gains by generating goodwill among the public. The Congress’ ally, the NCP too chimed in asking for the concert asking for it to be postponed.
Nirupam, and his associates in the INC and NCP however, were wrong. The Election Code of Conduct, which came into effect after polling dates were announced on 17 October is not valid for the districts of Mumbai (City and Suburban) and Thane. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) comprising of seven municipal corporations, mostly within these three districts, is set to go for polls only in early 2017.
Perhaps some in the party realised that it was a futile fight, which is why Congress leader Milind Deora tweeted out stating that it was “unwise” to demand any ban on the concert. Eventually, Deora even took to the stage at the concert, with Poonam Mahajan and Aditya Thakeray, to spread the word for the social causes taken up.
One may wonder if the Congress planned to rake this controversy up only to blame the BJP government later, if the concert was delayed or cancelled. In the wake of the recent controversy surrounding the release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, any delay or cancellation of the concert would have reflected very badly on the Fadnavis government.
Global Citizen had further stated that it planned to organise more such events for the next 15 years with this year being the first one. A ban or rescheduling of the event would have sent out an incorrect message that India is not the right destination for global concerts. Maybe Congress leaders like Sanjay Nirupam had this in mind?
Another fringe group that targeted the event was the Aam Aadmi Party. Party convener for Maharashtra, Anjali Damania went on to file a PIL in the Bombay High Court. Why? The Tax exemption granted by the Fadnavis government. But the exemption was justified as the event was of charitable nature, for majority of the tickets were given out free.
Despite such hurdles, the concert took place. There were usual rants about why PM Modi sent out a message by a few social media commentators, but in the end, India could host an event of international standards.