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The importance of a Trinamul connect

Calcutta, March 18: Actor Arindam Sil and poet Subodh Sarkar, both known for their proximity to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, have dealt a blow to the beleaguered Left by announcing their decision yesterday to canvass for Trinamul candidate Arpita Ghosh.

Desertion by people from the world of art and culture is not new to the Left as its support base in the civil society has depleted since the Singur and Nandigram movements.

But the volte-face by Sil and Sarkar, who had stood by the communists in Bengal through thick and thin, has surprised many as they had not only been Left sympathisers but also vocal critics of what they perceived as Mamata Banerjee’s faulty policies till a few months ago.

“What can we do? If people want to switch flanks, we cannot hold them back forcibly,” a source in Alimuddin Street said.

Several theories on the unexpected switch in allegiance were doing the rounds in the world of culture.

A source said the “buzz” was that Sil, who needs administrative support in connection with his production company, agreed to campaign for Arpita, theatre personality and Trinamul’s Balurghat candidate, following a prod from education minister Bratya Basu.

“With the Bengali film industry coming under the control of Mamata and her aide Aroop Biswas, Sil’s production house was not finding favour because of his Left leanings,” the source said.

Sil, whose company Nothing Beyond Cinema produces films and TV serials, had campaigned for the CPM, particularly Gautam Deb, before the 2011 Assembly polls. Sil had fought tooth and nail in TV debates with those in favour of Trinamul and had pitched for the continuance of the Left government.

Sil said today: “My support for Arpita doesn’t mean I’m Trinamul now or I will contest elections if given a chance.”

But he hastened to add: “If the current government has accepted my political beliefs and helped me, how can I turn down a request from my friend Bratya and not show my support?”

Sil, according to film industry sources, needs to maintain contact with the administration to get necessary permissions for shootings and to ensure that programmes produced by him are showcased properly.

Similar “constraints” had prompted singer Indranil Sen, who runs the production house Raimak Entertainment, to tilt towards Trinamul, the sources said.

Sen, who is contesting the Behrampore Lok Sabha seat on a Trinamul ticket, had been a frequent face at CPM-sponsored events during the Left rule.

A CPM leader today recalled that post-Nandigram, Sen had attended a programme at Science City that Bhattacharjee had addressed.

Sources said Sen’s “alienation” from the world of culture after the change of guard prompted him to get close to Trinamul.

Sen said today that those culturally inclined would “always get” Mamata’s support. “There are many who have belonged to other political parties but Didi has not shied away from felicitating them for their achievement,” he said.

Poet and teacher Sarkar, who received the Sahitya Akademi award a few days ago, had been a regular at Nandan, which former chief minister Bhattacharjee used to visit regularly in the evenings till the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Although Sarkar was never a hard-core Left supporter, sources said Bhattacharjee liked his poems, his rendition and his “reverence” for the CPM leader. The late Sunil Gangopadhyay’s fondness for Sarkar strengthened the relation between the latter and Bhattacharjee, the sources said.

The sources said Sarkar wanted to become the Sahitya Akademi president, for which the government’s support is essential. Sarkar could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

When Mamata was railway minister, she had inducted theatre personalities Basu and Saonli Mitra and painter Suvaprasanna into railway committees.

A CPM state committee member said people from the world of culture switching allegiance to Trinamul had come as a “rude shock” to Bhattacharjee.

“As cultural affairs minister and chief minister, he loved to be in the midst of poets, novelists, singers and film directors. He also felt for their cause. But it’s unfortunate that they are switching now,” he said.

Actor Koushik Sen said today: “Whenever people see that a particular political power is here to stay for long, they start taking sides and feel safe to remain on the periphery of power. I don’t think it comes from any political awakening or philosophical quest.’’

A Trinamul leader said Mamata was more accessible to stars than Bhattacharjee. “She speaks to them and texts them. Because of her growing acceptance in the Tollygunge film industry, Tollywood people have willingly joined her art and culture camp,” a film personality said.