BJP sees Modi face in Cochin Carnival’s Pappanji; Unnecessary row, say organisers

The "papaanji" figure in Fort Kochi which is set to be consigned to flame on New Year's day as part of Cochin Carnival celebrations
The "papaanji" figure in Fort Kochi which is set to be consigned to flame on New Year's day as part of Cochin Carnival celebrations

Kochi: The Cochin Carnival, touted as the largest annual tourist draw of Kerala, landed in an unprecedented controversy on Thursday as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged a protest alleging that the face of the Pappanji figure being built as part of the event looked similar to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Pappanji is a Santa-like long-bearded figure distinctively designed each year by noted artists, often based on contemporary themes. The figure is set on fire on New Year night, marking the culmination of the carnival. The burning of the effigy is easily interpreted as a setting ablaze all the vices of the year just gone.

Local BJP activists took out a march to the Fort Kochi beach where artists have been installing the 65 feet figure. The saffron party claimed the Carnival organisers agreed to change the face after the protest. The BJP also filed a complaint with the local police, alleging that attempts were on to insult the prime minister and to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the annual event. Terming the protest absolutely unnecessary, the Carnival organisers said they will ensure that there is no controversy over the event.

“The Carnival committee’s move to portray Pappanji with the face of the prime minister should be condemned. People from different parts of the world, cutting across caste, religion and political parties, come to Kochi to witness the Carnival and welcome the New Year. By giving the Pappanji the face of the prime minister, those who are behind it have insulted the Cochin Carnival, the people of Kochi as well as the nation,” BJP district president K S Shaiju told Onmanorama. He said his party resorted to a protest after they were alerted by local fishermen who works on the Chinese nets on the beach.

Incidentally, BJP leaders are also part of the Carnival Committee which comprises people representing various parties and government officials.

‘Dangerous trend’

K J Sohan, former Kochi Mayor and a key organiser of the event, termed BJP’s protest totally unwarranted and a dangerous trend. “The works on Pappanji’s figure has not been completed yet. BJP has found similarity with the PM’s face only in a mask used as the base for the figure’s face. The final face will look completely different and we have conveyed it to them. These sort of protests are a dangerous trend as they trigger unnecessary troubles in society,” he said.

Sohan said this edition’s Pappanji has been designed as symbol of humanity’s conquest over the coronavirus. “Pappanji has his left leg placed over corona this time,” he said. The figure has been designed by artist and IT professional Jais George and is built by Godwin, a native of Mulavukad.

This is the 39th edition of the Cochin Carnival. A painting exhibition at Pallathu Raman Square, marathon, cycle rally, food fests, Konkani language fest, kayaking, football and other sports, and cultural events are being held in different locales in west Kochi as part of the carnival.

A youth festival of differently-abled children, swimming, school band contests, motor bike race, fashion show, and wrestling are also held.

On December 31 night, cultural events will be followed by setting the Pappanji on ire. A fireworks display too will be held. The carnival rally will begin from Veli ground at 3.30 pm on January 1.

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