With film stars, football icons and famous singers dotting the Bengal electoral landscape in addition to the seasoned politicians, the state’s electorate this time are presented with interesting choices in the Lok Sabha elections.
Long used to hearing loud and vapid speeches of the hardcore politicians, the voters are now delighted to listen to the unconventional, elegant speeches of the political greenhorns.
From superstar Dev to screen diva Moonmoon Sen to former India football team captain Baichung Bhutia to musician Bappi Lahiri and magician P C Sorkar Jr, the voters have never had it so good. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that someday I willbe able to see Dev from so close,” said star-struck Sumita Adhikari, a resident of Ghatal, a small town about 140 km from here under Ghatal constituency in West Midnapore district.
Commanding a mass following, film star Dev is the Trinamool Congress candidate from Ghatal and his first speech as a politician last week had left the crowd, mostly of young people, spell bound. It is the same with magician P C Sorkar, who has heldshows all over the world, fighting from Barasat as a BJP nominee.
“The jadugar (magician) I dreamt to be all my childhood and even in my teens, was so near and I shook hands with him. It’s just magic,” said Bijoy Chatterjee of Barasat. Performing roadshows in different localities in his constituency, Sorkar even performed some quick magic responding to his innumerable fans’ desires and to rounds of applause.
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The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has fielded cinestars Dev (Ghatal), Moonmoon Sen (Bankura) and Sandhya Roy (Midnapore) for the first time. Satabdi Roy and Tapas Pal are sitting MPs of the party who have been renominated from their respective constituencies of Birbhum and Krishnagar.
While Baichung Bhutia has been fielded by Trinamool Congress from the high-strung Darjeeling seat, another soccer star of yesteryears Prasun Banerjee has been fielded by the party from Howrah, where he won in a by-election in 2013.
The party has also fielded singers Indranil Sen (Behrampore) and Soumitra Roy (Malda North) and thespian Arpita Ghosh (Balurghat).
BJP has also fielded an array of showbiz people in different constituencies in the state with musician Bappi Lahiri (Serampore), singer Babul Supriyo (Asansol) and Sorkar (Barasat) topping the charts. It has also fielded cine actors George Baker (Howrah), Joy Banerjee (Birbhum) and Nimu Bhowmik (Raiganj) from seats where it traditionally fielded political people.
Though it is to be seen how much the people’s craze will turn into votes for them, the people in their constituencies are at present enjoying their presence. Asked why so many stars have been fielded instead of party officials as it was done in the previous elections, West Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha said, “This time the fight is between Trinamool Congress and BJP in the state.”
“As they have fielded so many celebrities, to counter them we have also fielded stars. We have heavyweights like Bappi Lahiri and George Baker,” Sinha said. “While we have fielded good party officials at several seats, we have also gone for the celebrity touch,” he said about the six such candidates out of 42 seats in the state.
“We have to show them that ‘Hum kisise kum nahin’ (we are not lesser than anyone),” he said in a lighter vein.
A political rookie coming from a CPI(M) family in Keshpur village, Dev said, “I could not say no to Didi” when the 32-year old actor was asked why he chose to join the political bandwagon so early in his career. Baichung, who has netted goals from some of the most difficult angles during his chequered soccer career, have to tackle a totally different ball game altogether and that too from the difficult seat of Darjeeling.
The Trinamool candidate, however, said, “Nobody is born a politician. Neither Narendra Modi nor Rahul Gandhi were born as politicians. Just like a game of sports, a politician too has to learn politics over time. I personally feel successful sportspersons can also make good politicians.”