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Loudmouths meet nemesis in cellphone

July 1: The ubiquitous cellphone, not the BJP, is turning out to be the Trinamul Congress’s biggest headache. More so for film personalities like Tapas Paul, who have made the transition to politics but still draw crowds in rural areas for their star value.

Trinamul sources said Paul, whose comments threatening rape and murder has kicked up a storm nationwide, should have exercised caution as people take pictures or record videos on cellphones of stars. One such video of Paul’s inflammatory speech in Nadia’s Choumaha was leaked to the media yesterday.

“Cellphones have become a big cause of concern for us. It is not always possible for leaders to exercise caution while speaking to party workers. Having said that, I think Paul should have shown restraint. Look where his comments have landed him,” a Trinamul leader said.

Sources said people other than party workers and supporters flock to Paul’s rallies because he is a star. “People remember him for his films such as Dadar Kirti, Guru Dakshina and Saheb. In the districts, he is not merely an MP, but also a celebrity,” a Trinamul leader in Nadia said today.

“Whenever Paul moves around in his Lok Sabha constituency (Krishnagar), people of all ages, especially boys and girls, rush to catch a glimpse of him. They click his pictures on cellphone cameras and record videos,” the leader added.

Trinamul leaders said not all politicians’ speeches in the districts were recorded. “Had only Trinamul workers been present at the meeting, that video clip, in all probability, would not have been circulated. Just because it was Tapas Paul the actor, many of those who had gathered had taken his pictures and recorded videos,” another Trinamul leader in Nadia said.

Paul is, however, not the first Trinamul leader to be caught on the wrong foot because of images captured on mobile phones.

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls this year, footage of a purported speech by the party’s Dum Dum candidate Saugata Roy telling cadres to rig the elections had got leaked and embarrassed Trinamul. At a closed-door party workers’ convention, Roy was seen in the video telling the participants to emulate the CPM and “rig” the polls. Roy, who won the election, had claimed that the CPM had resorted to rigging in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Another cellphone video had purportedly shown then industries minister Partha Chatterjee instruct police at a closed-door meeting at the office of the Loba gram panchayat in Birbhum on July 16, 2012, to retrieve an earth-moving machine held hostage by landlosers demanding more compensation. Chatterjee had denied giving any such instruction.

“The video was leaked after the firing, allegedly by the police at Loba in November 2012, which left 30 people injured. The incident had dented the government’s image. The purported footage of the minister had caused discomfort to the party,” a source said.

The inflammatory comments of Birbhum Trinamul president Anubrata Mondal and Labhpur MLA Manirul Islam at public meetings had, however, been recorded by television news channels.

Certain activities of district units and frontal organisations of Trinamul, footage of which were leaked, had been considered derogatory by a section of people.

On January 2, 2013, a purported video had shown bar crooners performing at a programme in Bhangar to mark Trinamul’s foundation day.

Some Trinamul Chhatra Parishad members at Rabindra Bharati University were seen in another video, dancing in front of a photograph of the chief minister in 2012.

“Camera-fitted cellphones have become so common nowadays that it is difficult to check whether anybody is recording footage. In crowded meetings, both closed-door and in the open, it is not possible to monitor what each and everyone is doing. Whenever supporters see a party leader, especially a celebrity, they start taking photographs and recording videos on their phone cameras,” a Trinamul leader said.

Cellphones had been banned at only one party event in recent memory. No participant had been allowed to carry a mobile phones at the venue of the meeting in Calcutta’s Town Hall on September 18, 2012, where Mamata Banerjee had announced her decision to pull out of the UPA-II government.

Trinamul leaders are not sure whether such a move would be taken at tomorrow’s meeting at Trinamul Bhavan, where party MPs, ministers, district unit presidents and heads of frontal organisations will be present.