Among the many changes that Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ushered in in West Bengal politics was introducing actors and celebrities from the field of culture into politics. From yesteryear stars such as Moon Moon Sen to present-day actors like Dev, Ms. Banerjee successfully used their star appeal and reaped political dividends. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, she sprang a surprise by nominating Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty, who went on to become Lok Sabha MPs from Basirhat and Jadavpur respectively.
However, in the bitterly contested 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal, the situation is slightly different. Both the TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have fielded a number of actors and celebrities but it is not going to be a cakewalk for them.
The TMC has fielded actor Saayoni Ghosh from Asansol Dakshin, a constituency that the BJP has maintained a lead in in the past few elections. Union Minister Babul Supriyo had won the Asansol seat twice, in 2014 and 2019.
The same is the case for filmmaker and well-known director Raj Chakraborty who has been nominated from Barrackpore Assembly seat. Not only will Mr. Chakraborty have to grapple with discontent in the party but he is also pitted against BJP MP Arjun Singh, who maintains his sway in this seat. Similarly, another actor, Sayantika Ghosh, has been fielded by the ruling party in West Bengal from Bankura, an Assembly constituency where the BJP had a lead of over 40,000 votes in 2019.
A look at the BJP actor candidates also shows a similar predicament. Among the actors who joined the BJP, the party has nominated them in seats where the TMC is strong. Payel Sarkar has been picked for Behala Purba and Anjana Basu in Sonarpur South – both the seats are Trinamool bastions. Even for Mr. Supriyo, who has been nominated to contest elections from Tollygunj Assembly seat, it is going to be tough. The seat is a TMC stronghold where the party has nominated Minister Aroop Biswas and the Samyukt Morcha candidate is Communist Party of India ( Marxist) nominee, actor Debdoot Ghosh. Even in the Chanditala seat in Hooghly, where the BJP has nominated Yash Dasgupta, he is up against CPI(M) veteran Md. Salim.
‘Not going to be easy’
Well-known political commentator and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University Biswanath Chakraborty pointed out that it is not going to be easy for stars and actors in these high-stakes polls.
“In difficult situations these actors can appeal across political lines and both the BJP and the TMC are experimenting this time. They want to see if their individual charisma can tide over the political divide,” said Prof. Chakraborty.