Film actor Biju Phukan and singer Jitul Sonowal are the latest in a long list of Assam celebrities who have joined politics. While Phukan, a veteran of over 100 films including several award-winning ones, has joined the Trinamool Congress, Sonowal has joined the BJP.
Three months earlier, singer Debajit Saha joined the Congress, which had roped in another veteran film actor, Nipon Goswami, three years ago.
Phukan, most remembered for his role as Mohikanta in Bhabendra Nath Saikia’s award-winning Agnisnan (1985) and also in Jahnu Barua’s maiden film Aparoopa (1982) and Nip Barua’s Ajoli Nabou (1979), is contesting the Guwahati seat.
“I think it is important for cultural activists and artists to join mainstream politics in order to get so many things done. It was because of Bhupen Hazarika that Assam got a state-owned film studio in the 1960s, that being the first state-owned studio in the entire country,” said Nipon Goswami, an FITT alumnus of 1968. Bhupen Hazarika, who had become an independent MLA in Assam in 1967, contested in the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat in 2004, but lost.
For Phukan, a contemporary of Goswami, the TMC is his second party. “I did join the AGP in 1999 and contested the Lok Sabha seat of Dibrugarh. But I am disgusted with that party, which has lost people’s support after such a wonderful start,” said Phukan.
Sonowal, on the other hand, admitted he had no experience of politics, but wanted to do “something” to bring about a change. “All I can do is sing songs for the party and for Narendra Modi in order to tell the people that this is the right party to bring about the much-desired change that the country is looking for,” he said. Sonowal, in fact, equated the BJP’s emerging popularity to a storm that will blow the Congress away this spring season.
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Singer Debajit, who won a TV reality show in 2005, joined the Congress in December. “I have understood the pulse of the people by singing in various places for the past eight years. Now I want to go beyond entertainment and do something substantial that will change people’s lives.”
Not all are amused with film actors and singers joining political parties. “You cannot suddenly jump into politics just on the eve of the elections. Politics, and more particularly fighting elections, is a long-term exercise that needs a lot of hard work that is different from the equally difficult tasks of singing and acting,” said Bobbeeta Sharma, secretary of the IT and social media cell of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee.
A film actor and director herself, Sharma was one of the seven candidates who had fought the Congress party’s primaries for the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat last month. “But artistes do help get more votes because they have their fan following, especially among the youth and women. Artistes also enrich the parties. But before fighting elections they should work for some time for the party and understand the intricacies involved,” said Sharma.
But veteran film critic and cultural commentator Shekhar Jyoti Bhuyan said, “Artistes, singers and actors are cultured people. More from this tribe should join politics. That will help flush out a lot of uncultured elements that have crowded the political parties.”