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Before BJP serial, a friend stands out

Shantana Basu, Mithun Chakraborty’s screen mom in Cheetah, Prosenjit’s mother in Greftar, Koel Mallick’s mother in Ghatak and Jeet’s mother in Jor.

Probir Roy, actor, director and producer.

Sucheta Chakraborty, character artiste in a television serial, Anchal.

Subhadra Chakraborty, TV serial actor.

Bikash Banerjee, director of films such as Premi and Ragging.

Priyanka Das, serial actor

Sreeparna Ghosh, actor in a film yet to be released

Snehasish Ganguly

Snehasish who? Among all the names listed above, if there is one that does not need any introduction in Bengal, it will be that of the elder brother of Sourav Ganguly.

There’s one more difference: Snehasish said he went to the BJP state headquarters on Tuesday to look up a long-time well-wisher while the others trooped in later to join the party.

Snehasish met state BJP president Rahul Sinha for around an hour. Asked if he was thinking of joining the BJP, the former Ranji player from Bengal told The Telegraph later: “If I join, you will get to know. There is still enough time in hand. I have known Rahulda for a long time and had come to meet him today. What’s wrong in that?”

“Don’t try to read too much into this,” added Snehasish, who met Sinha at the state BJP headquarters on Muralidhar Sen Lane in central Calcutta.

The word of caution came not without reason. The BJP had reportedly sent feelers to his brother before the elections about a Lok Sabha seat but the former Indian captain steered clear of the political plunge.

On a post-election high, the BJP did not appear ready to give up easily this time. BJP leaders said they were keen to have people like Snehasish on board because the party was on an expansion drive in Bengal ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls.

“We have been sounding out well-known personalities. One cannot deny that their joining the party gives you visibility,” a senior BJP leader said.

The BJP has a history of getting celebrities on board, a trend many in the party attribute to L.K. Advani, a film buff. Advani has been credited with inducting into the party Bollywood actors Shatrughan Sinha and Manoj Kumar and television stars such as Arvind Trivedi and Deepika Chikhalia (Ravan and Sita in the TV serial Ramayan) in the early 1990s.

Over the years, the party’s Bollywood connection grew stronger with Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Kirron Kher and Paresh Rawal joining in. TV actress Smriti Irani has been made the HRD minister in the current NDA government.

In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP fielded singer Babul Supriyo and music composer Bappi Lahiri from Bengal. The Supriyo gamble paid off, largely because of his hard work and natural flair for politics.

The BJP’s problem in Bengal is that most celebrities — the pool of which is neither wide nor deep — have already been taken by Trinamul.

So, the BJP is now banking on the available talent — which means faces with recall value in some homes — hoping that eventually the heavy-hitters will join the party.

“People are excited and they want to know more about the BJP as a party. They are meeting us because they want to know about the BJP’s promise of good governance,” said Siddharth Nath Singh, the BJP’s national spokesperson and deputy observer for Bengal. “What you see now is a trailer. Give me six more months,” he added.

Delivering on the promise, however, will be easier said than done and might mean a full-time job.

The chief minister is known to personally keep in touch with actors, actresses and technicians. Minister Aroop Biswas regularly interacts with almost the entire Tollywood and TV brigade.

The BJP appears to be smelling an opportunity in perceived cracks in the industry. Actor George Baker, who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Howrah on a BJP ticket, said today: “These members have joined the BJP because they are fed up with the monolopy (of the ruling establishment) in Tollywood and the way the industry is functioning. More members will join very soon.”


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