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Srimati Dev Varma, aka Moon Moon Sen

Candidate Moon Moon Sen tries her hand at reaching out to voters in Bankura on Sunday. Pictures by Rashbehari Das
The back-screen introduces “Srimati Dev Varma”In larger letters in brackets, it is made clear that she indeed is “Moon Moon Sen”
Srimati Dev Varma at the mike Sri Dev Varma on the dais

What’s in a name?

She who we know as Suchitra Sen’s daughter

By any other name would seem as starry.

— (Not quite from Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2)

A tale of two names dominated the starting credits at the first workers’ convention of the Trinamul Congress candidate from Bankura.

Amar porichoy di aami? Aajke toh aalaap korte eshechhi... (May I introduce myself? Today I am here to meet you for the first time),” said the lady Bengal knows as Moon Moon Sen before lifting the veil on her dual identity at Bankura Stadium this evening.

One, “Sen, Suchitra Sen’s daughter” Moon Moon Sen.

The other, “Srimati Dev Varma”, wife of Bharat Dev Varma, who shared the dais with her.

First up, the daughter. “The one you all know and love, I am her daughter. My standing here means that my mother is standing here,” announced Moon Moon, better known as Suchitra Sen’s daughter in the constituency where she plays challenger to long-time champion Basudeb Acharya of the CPM.

Then, the wife. “My other identity is that of Srimati Dev Varma. My husband Bharat Dev Varma, who is from a Scheduled Tribe, is here with me today,” she said urging him to stand up amid several Adivasi women on the dais and wave to the gathering.

Why Srimati Dev Varma? “Actually, Srimati is my ‘good name’ and Dev Varma is my husband’s surname. That’s what my voter’s card and passport say,” Moon Moon later told The Telegraph, aware that there is a substantial Adivasi population in her constituency.

“I hope they would identify better with me knowing that my husband too belongs to a Scheduled Tribe. They would realise that though we look different, dress different, my heart lies with them,” she added.

Moon Moon was clearly dressed for her first day- first show in the political arena — in blue-and-white throughout the day (the colour combination was “deliberate”, she later admitted with a chuckle). A white cotton salwar teamed with a blue chiffon stole for the drive from her Ballygunge Circular Road flat to Bankura, followed by a chiffon sari for the Karmi Sabha. And, a blue-and-white wristband, instead of jewellery.

After a light lunch of mixed vegetables, posto bora, moong dal and alubhaja at the Saptaparna hotel, she went to inspect the old bungalow in Kenduadihi that has been spruced up for her.

“It’s very nice,” she told friend and now Trinamul colleague Subrata Mukherjee (who had lost to Basudeb Acharya in 2009), while her husband went around and checked out the rooms and arrangements. “It’s all very new for us and quite exciting. I wanted to help her check out the place and I came along also because I’d never been to Bankura. I hope to come and stay with her when she campaigns,” said Bharat, far better known back in Ballygunge as Habi.

The Moon Moon vs Srimati, Sen vs Dev Varma name game was being played out on the hot and dusty roads of Bankura even before the lady in question took the stadium stage flanked by Subrata Mukherjee and Mukul Roy.

On the one hand the walls of the town were covered in graffiti: “Srimati Dev Varma (Moon Moon Sen) ke vote din” and on the other, hundreds had lined the streets and thousands had thronged the stadium for a glimpse of “Suchitra Sen-er meye”.

“We were never fortunate enough to see Mahanayika Suchitra Sen up close but we are very happy that her daughter is here with us,” said Mahasweta Mukherjee, a Trinamul party worker from one of the nearby villages, mirroring the mood of many.

“Moon Moon Sen suswagatam!” The cries leapt in the air as did hands armed with cellphone cameras going click click.

“A lot of people ask me why I entered politics. Well, politics, the way I used to know it earlier, has changed a lot. To me it is about doing samaj sheba, serving the people. That’s why I am here,” said Moon Moon, by whose side chief minister Mamata Banerjee had stood resolute during her mother’s illness and death.

“When my mother was in hospital, a lady came and told me, ‘I don’t want to disturb you, but Suchitra Sen, for us, will always remain at the peak as a star’. And that lady was Mamata Banerjee,” recalled Moon Moon, the giant flex serving as a backdrop for her stage screaming: “Srimati Dev Varma (Moon Moon Sen)”.

Asked whether the voters might not be confused by the star’s dual identity, Arup Chakraborty, Trinamul Congress chairman of the Bankura Zilla Parishad, said: “Voters will press the button against the party symbol. That is what matters.”

But he did clarify that at the time of filing her nomination on April 16, an affidavit would be submitted to the returning officer stating that Srimati Dev Varma and Moon Moon Sen are the same person. “Based on this, the EVM machines will have her official name and Moon Moon Sen in brackets,” said Chakraborty, basking in the afterglow of “by far the largest ever party gathering in Bankura town”.

All thanks to Moon Moon or Srimati or what you will…


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