BJP takes leaf out of Mamata’s book, woos Tollywood ahead of Bengal elections
On March 14, 2007, police firing in West Bengal’s Nandigram killed 14 people according to official reports. Farmers in the area were resisting acquisition of their land for industry. Successive tales of police highhandedness and violence perpetrated by CPI(M) cadres on protesters turned civil society against the Left Front government.
Actors, directors, musicians, painters and authors rallied behind then Opposition leader Mamata Banerjee. Popular Tollywood faces such as Aparna Sen, Moon Moon Sen, Mithun Chakraborty, Tapas Pal, Chiranjeet Chakraborty, Debashree Roy and Kaushik Sen called for change. It was then that Mamata decided to use the film industry’s mass appeal politically.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and 2011 assembly polls, Mamata gave tickets to a number of Tollywood actors and reaped rich benefits; some even turned out to be ‘giant-killers’. Buoyed by the success of the move, she fielded younger actors such as Dev, Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan in successive general elections, all of whom went on to become MPs.
All this while, serial and theatre actors did not stay behind. They too joined the Trinamool in droves. And now, with elections in Bengal round the corner, the fight over Tollywood has spiced up with the entry of BJP. Mohan Bhagwat’s meeting with Mithun and BJP leader Anirban Ganguly’s meeting with Tollywood star Prosenjit have set tongues wagging.
On Wednesday, February 17, Yash Dasgupta became the latest in a long line of actors to join BJP. Popular TV actors Rudranil Ghosh, Rimjhim Mitra, Parno Mittra, Rrishii Kaushik, Joy Sengupta, Kanchana Moitra and Rupanjana Mitra had joined the BJP earlier. Roopa Ganguly and Locket Chatterjee are already BJP MPs.
Bengali actor Yash Dasgupta joins Bharatiya Janata Party, in Kolkata pic.twitter.com/GUyC6j9rmy
— ANI (@ANI) February 17, 2021
A battery of TV and film stars has also joined the Trinamool recently. These include Koushani Mukherjee, Deepankar De, Bharat Kaul and Ronita Das. If sources are to be believed, popular actor Hiran is also set to join BJP soon.
The civil society is very important in the RSS school of thought. Back in 1977, when LK Advani was information and broadcasting minister, the film “Mrigaya” received an award at the Moscow International Film Festival. The movie, produced by Left-oriented director late Mrinal Sen and starring Mithun and Mamata Shankar, had also won a National Film Award the year before.
Advani had then accompanied Sen to Moscow. Years later, he told this author that RSS taught him to connect with people, even if they are of different ideologies. “We should influence people to create an impact on society as Indian society is extremely prejudiced by the Nehruvian model of thinking,” the veteran BJP leader had said.
This is the reason RSS or BJP does not want to attach such significance to Bhagwat meeting Mithun at his Mumbai residence. As part of Sangh’s outreach, Bhagwat has interacted with several intellectuals in Kolkata as well. Even Amit Shah recently met classical musician and Padma Bhushan awardee Ajoy Chakraborty at his Kolkata residence.
BJP leaders have also been in touch with bureaucrats, industrialists and doctors.
But by getting more people from the film industry into its fold, the BJP is not only trying to break Mamata’s support base in Tollywood but also hopes that their popularity will pay rich electoral dividends for the party in poll-bound Bengal.
(The writer is a senior journalist based out of Kolkata)