Kolkata: From a point where it failed to attract big Bengali names, the BJP has now been able to reach out to three of West Bengal’s biggest icons — actors Prosenjit Chatterjee and Mithun Chakraborty, and former Indian cricket skipper and current BCCI president Sourav Ganguly.
Even though none of these stars have joined the BJP or made any speech supporting the party or its ideology, the BJP has been strategically using their presence in central government programmes and meetings with top leaders or ideologues of the BJP-RSS front.
Over the past few weeks, photos of Prosenjit Chatterjee attending the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed event to celebrate Subhash Chandra Bose’s 125th birth anniversary on 23 January surfaced on social media, and they were later followed by another photo of him with Anirban Ganguly the chief of the BJP-affiliated Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation and a member of the party’s West Bengal core committee.
The photo shows Anirban Ganguly handing over a book on Amit Shah to Prosenjit.
Similarly, a picture of actor Mithun Chakraborty with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat went viral on social media on 17 February.
Chakraborty, a former Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP, had met Bhagwat at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur last year. He then invited Bhagwat for breakfast at his residence in Mumbai on 17 February.
Bengal goes Bhagwa way when Dancing legend Mithun da join hand with Most respectable & RSS Pramukh Mohan Bhagwat ji pic.twitter.com/ST0fZAYcWF
— Vicky Agarwal (@vickyagarwall) February 17, 2021
For Sourav Ganguly, people’s perception about his supposed association with the party is even stronger than the others.
Ganguly is the president of BCCI and Jay Shah, Amit Shah’s son, is the secretary of the organisation. Ganguly, who suffered a mild stroke a few days ago, received calls from the home minister and the prime minister inquiring about his health.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also met Ganguly at Raj Bhavan for the first time, in the over two years he has spent in office, on 27 December last year. Pictures of the meeting had also gone viral on all social platforms.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, however, said that this is a BJP strategy “to confuse people”.
“By clicking pictures with Sourav Ganguly or Bumba Da (Prosenjit) or Mithun Da, who are immensely popular among Bengalis, BJP is trying to create confusion. Like every other false agenda they bring, this is another fake narrative,” the Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha MP and theatre director Arpita Ghosh said.
“They want to portray that such personalities are with them. But it is not true. None of them ever spoke in support of their ideology or expressed faith in their communal agenda. All of them are our icons and we believe in them. They will not fall prey to such political strategy of BJP.
“People of Bengal are intelligent and aware enough to understand such propaganda politics. These strategies will not fetch them more votes,” she added.
Smaller stars join party
In the run-up to assembly polls in the state, the BJP has managed to induct a host of smaller stars while some others are regularly seen in the party’s outreach programmes.
Last week, Bengali cinema star Yash Dasgupta joined the BJP.
Then, on 23 February, Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar’s outreach programme for Bengali intellectuals at a Kolkata hotel saw a good number of senior members of Bengal’s film industry, also known as Tollywood, attend the programme.
They included actors Rituparna Sengupta, Paoli Dam, Abir Chatterjee and others such as Mamata Shankar, Churni Ganguly, film-makers Gautam Ghosh, Anik Dutta, producers Mahendra Soni and Nispal Singh and renowned classical singer Ustad Rashid Khan.
Veteran actor Biswajit Chatterjee, who was initially associated with the Trinamool Congress was present at the event, while Prosenjit, his son, skipped it.
Political analyst, Prof. Samir Das, however, feels that none of this will make a difference unless one of the big guns join the party.
“The BJP is surely trying to make inroads, but I am not sure how much it will help them. Had they been successful in bringing Sourav Ganguly to their political platform, it would have been a real breakthrough,” he said.
“But he has very carefully managed to stay away from any political event or association. Despite being BCCI president, he never came out explicitly in BJP’s support. It is the same with Prosenjit. Mithun Chakraborty calls his association with RSS as spiritual.
“But, the party is trying to create a perception and somehow managed to get hold of three most important personalities of Bengal,” he added.
Inroads in Trinamool’s fort
After at least three years of making several attempts, the BJP finally seems to make inroads into Tollywood.
“We are organising our sampark programmes regularly among Bengal’s elite intellectuals. They appreciate Modiji’s development work and reforms,” Anirban Ganguly told The Print. “But meeting any celebrity does not mean that we want them to join our political party; it is our outreach programme, we take their suggestions and recommendation to build a Sonar Bangla.”
Rantideb Sengupta, a senior columnist and convenor of BJP’s intellectual cell, said the celebrities are finally giving the party a chance. “We are trying to reach out to them, who despite having different political faith or a neutral thinking, gave us a chance to present our case,” he said.
The Trinamool Congress, however, continues to lead in this field. Over the past 10 years, the Trinamool has enjoyed a monopoly and controlled the industry.
The party has at least 12 present or former MPs and MLAs, who are Tollywood celebrities. The list includes Satabdi Roy, Tapas Pal, Munmun Sen, Dipak Adhikari aka Dev, Mimi Chakrabarti, Nusrat Jahan and Arpita Ghosh as MPs and Bratya Bose, Debosree Roy, Chiranjeet Chakraborty, Indranil Sen as MLAs.
Bratya Bose and Indranil Sen are Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet colleagues.
Among sports personalities, Trinamool had football icon Baichung Bhutia as an MP and Dipendu Biswas as an MLA.
The party continues to attract celebrities. In the past month alone, at least two dozen theatre and movie actors have joined Trinamool Congress. Cricketer Manoj Tiwary, along with a group of actors, joined the party in presence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday.
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