The Telegraph
Thursday , March 6 , 2014

For the greatest show, no business like showbiz

- Experiment with new faces: Trinamul embraces celebs, Left tries to beat age curse
The Trinamul poll list has turned the Tollywood spotlight on Bunohaans (The Wild Goose), a film directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, starring both Dev and Moon Moon Sen (in picture on the sets of the movie). The project, based on a Samaresh Majumdar novel, was set for a Poila Baisakh release. After meetings in Mumbai to push back the release date, director Roy Chowdhury
said: “A pleasant surprise. Yes, the film will get delayed, but it’s for a greater cause.”

Calcutta, March 5: Two lists with 42 names each were unfurled within a span of an hour from 30B Harish Chatterjee Street and 31 Alimuddin Street this afternoon.

The Bengal Lok Sabha candidate lists from the two irreconcilable addresses — read out by sworn enemies Mamata Banerjee and Biman Bose — did have one striking similarity: the pronounced presence of first-timers in elections.

On the face of it, the Trinamul list looked more diverse and unconventional, packed with film stars, singers, academics and sports persons. The Left list was more political, drawn up with inputs from the lowest rung of front partners and focusing on striking a balance among youths, women, minorities and backward classes.

Willy-nilly, both lists echoed a perception that parties are finding it prudent to experiment with unfamiliar — and hence unsullied — names at a time traditional politics has come under attack. Both Trinamul and the Left have fielded 18 new faces each, if the same yardstick is applied.

The Left, often accused of promoting gerontocracy, sought to make amends somewhat by picking a candidate who may well turn out to be the youngest in the state at a little over 25 years. The Congress is yet to announce its list while the BJP has named only 17 candidates so far.

The Trinamul list has 12 women and the Left six. Trinamul has opted for seven candidates from the minority community and 12 from the backward classes. Bose took care to explain that the Left was fielding 12 candidates from the minority community (up from seven in 2009) and 13 SC/ST candidates. Identity politics does appear to have struck deeper roots this time.

But the talking point was the surfeit of celebrities on the Trinamul list. “The Lok Sabha should have people from various fields… Our list is good and I think we have the best combination,” said Mamata.

The biggest surprise was Dev, Tollywood’s reigning topper who is in the prime of his career. He is a household name because of back-to-back hits like Paglu and Challenge. Dev, whom the voting machine is expected to refer to as Dipak Adhikari, will take on Santosh Rana of the CPI in Ghatal in West Midnapore.

Another standout name is also from tinsel town — Moon Moon Sen who has been pitted against CPM war horse Basudeb Acharya in Bankura. Moon Moon has a pan-Bengal appeal as the daughter of Suchitra Sen, whose recent demise is likely to ensure better recall.

Bhaichung Bhutia, the Trinamul candidate from Darjeeling, has a huge following among soccer-loving Bengalis.

Trinamul’s other names — be it singers Indranil Sen or Soumitra Roy of Bhoomi or theatre personality Arpita Ghosh — too have easy recall.

Asked about the absence of celebrities on the Left list, Bose said: “We have drawn up a list of candidates from those who remain with the people through the year and those who fight for the rights of common people.”

“We have 26 new candidates,” Bose pointed out. The Left definition of new candidates includes those contesting from a seat for the first time. If the names of those who had contested earlier in the Assembly polls are weeded out, the new-candidate count stands at 18 — still higher than the 11-odd in 2009.

Sk Ibrahim Ali, the CPM’s Tamluk candidate, can well be the youngest candidate as he is 25 years and 7 months old. Another young candidate is Rinku Naskar, a 29-year-old CPM councillor of Calcutta Municipal Corporation and an alumnus of Presidency College, nominated from Mathurapur.

Conversations with leaders from both the camps threw up divergent reasons for fielding fresh faces. “We could not assess the situation in 2009 and as we were in power, the party fielded old horses. We are not making the same mistake,” a CPM leader said, adding that the party was trying to send a message to young voters.

In a political environment where new parties like the AAP are fielding candidates in their 20s, most political parties are trying to give more prominence to young leaders.

Sources in Trinamul said that Mamata might have had some other priorities in mind while selecting her list of candidates.

“With this list, she has made it clear that she would have the final say on candidate selection… She struck off names of five candidates from the list, whose names were included by the party’s all-India general secretary Mukul Roy. This is her way of sending a message,” said a Trinamul source.

According to a city-based political scientist, Mamata’s candidate selection revealed that it was part of a strategy in a four-cornered fight as most of her celebrity candidates were given difficult seats like Bankura, Behrampore and Malda North.

“This means she is trying to use the appeal of the celebrities to garner extra votes, over and above the already existing Trinamul vote bank,” he said.

Although a section of Trinamul insiders echoed him saying the strategy to field celebrities is tried and tested as it yielded results in the 2011 Assembly elections, others are not fully convinced about the extent to which celebrity candidates can win votes.

“Before the 2011 Assembly elections, there was a wave in favour of Didi…. I am not sure whether the conditions are similar this time as we are going to have a four-cornered fight,” said a Trinamul source.

“This is an apolitical list… Had we fielded good political candidates, the chances of putting up a fight would have increased,” he added.

The doubt about the uncertainties of a four-cornered fight was one of the reasons for speculation about the possibility of an alliance or a seat-sharing understanding between Trinamul and the Congress till a few days ago.

But with Mamata announcing her list of candidates for all 42 seats, it is clear that the two parties failed to arrive at a consensus on the number of seats.

“I am happy that we are alone…. We don’t have to see their faces,” said Mamata, who clarified that she meant “political faces”.

Deepa vs in-law

Deepa Das Munshi of the Congress and her brother-in-law Satya Ranjan of Trinamul have been pitted against each other in the Raiganj seat in North Dinajpur.

Asked about entering the fray against Deepa, Satya Ranjan, the younger brother of Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, said today: “I am guided by the principles of Mamata Banerjee and would prefer not to comment.”

Deepa said she found a “sharp contradiction” in Satya Ranjan’s stand. “First, he is iterating that he is Priyada’s brother and on the other hand he has joined Trinamul. When Priyada was active in politics, he never compromised with Trinamul on any issue.

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