Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who was slated to inaugurate the 36th International Film Festival of India at Goa on November 24 as the chief guest, was told by the government to withdraw from the event at the last minute due to his proximity to the Samajwadi Party, SP leader Amar Singh said in New Delhi on Monday.
Mounting an attack on United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy for humiliating the superstar, Amar also claimed that Amitabh's health bulletins were initially blocked on Doordarshan under pressure from Sonia and Jaipal.
"It was a great insult to the country's icon when he was prevented from inaugurating the festival after being invited," the SP leader told newspersons while releasing a copy of the invitation letter written to Amitabh by Goa Chief Minister Pratapsinh Rane, dated October 26, 2005.
"We had so far kept quiet as the festival was going on and did not want to create any controversy because of the presence of foreign delegates," he said.
"In the Indian Film history's 100 years, 50 years belong to Amitabh Bachchan. And even the IFFI, in which he was denied chief guest status, the Indian retrospective was dominated by his films. If the government is so against Amitabh Bachchan, it should stop holding such film festivals," he added.
Amar alleged that Jaipal was trying to "humiliate" Amitabh at the behest of the Congress president.
"Mr Reddy has a history of attacking Amitabh to please his political masters," he said, adding, "I do not want to get involved in the Amitabh-Congress relations, but since the Samajwadi Party was also named in the reasons told to Amitabh for withdrawal of the invitation to inaugurate the IFFI, I had to cite some facts,"
Amar said while Amitabh's wife Jaya Bachchan was an active member of the Samajwadi Party, the superstar was not a member of any party.
"The issue of keeping away Amitabh from the film festival was raised in Parliament and the media has also been carrying such reports, but the government is quiet. If the government would have tried to clarify its position, even if falsely, some benefit of the doubt would have been given. The silence is reinforcing reports about the treatment to the actor because of his relations with the Samajwadi party.
"The petty attitude of those sitting at high places was exposed by the way Doordarshan treated the news regarding his illness. When the whole country was praying for his health and people were glued to TV sets for any information about the actor, the national channel totally blocked any news about his health," he claimed.
It was only after Priyaranjan Dasmunshi took over as the Information and Broadcsating Minister that Doordarshan started telecasting his health bulletins, he added.