The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 1 , 2014
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Inactive in House, always by Mamata’s side
What a Gurudakshina from do-gooder!

Tapas Paul

Calcutta, June 30: He wowed the audience playing the simpleton Kedar in his rom-com debut Dadar Kirti in 1980. He charmed fans with his do-gooder role in Gurudakshina and as an aspiring footballer in Saheb.

His repeated success in Tollywood made Tapas Paul a prized catch for Mamata Banerjee in 2001 when she offered him the prestigious Alipore seat in the Assembly elections. Paul won.

Mamata renominated him in the 2006 state elections. He won again. But before his Assembly term ended, he was nominated from the Krishnagar Lok Sabha seat in 2009. His current tenure is his second from Krishnagar.

But after Bengali news channels 24 Ghanta and ABP Ananda broadcast a video of Paul addressing Nadia’s Chowmaha village and threatening rape, some Trinamul voices said leaders were “embarrassed”.

“Although the party did not corroborate what Paul said today, his inflammatory speech has indeed left us embarrassed before the entire nation,” said a Trinamul old-timer who has been associated with Mamata Banerjee since its formation in 1998 after she broke away from the Congress.

“Mamata has perhaps begun paying the price for her fascination with celebrities with no political experience,” the veteran rued.

Paul cut his teeth in Trinamul politics as a low-profile worker who would occasionally attend party meetings and rallies in parts of south Calcutta.

Sources in the party said that Mamata — who has always had a fascination for Tollywood — was fond of him because of his roles in films such as Dadar Kirti, Gurudakshina and Saheb.

“He was the first among Tollywood celebrities to become a Trinamul activist. Although Mamata had offered a ticket to actress Madhabi Mukherjee in the 2001 polls against Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, she fizzled out after her loss. Paul won and hung on,” a Trinamul MLA said.

Although Paul started getting prominence in the party — at times he toured with Mamata in the districts — he remained a point of conflict in Trinamul because some leaders considered him an outsider.

When Mamata renominated him from Alipore in 2006, there was a mini-rebellion led by with Firhad Hakim, the current urban development minister. A demonstration was held outside Mamata’s Harish Chatterjee Street residence to protest the decision.

Mamata stood by him and got him re-elected from Alipore, but she had bigger plans for him. He was nominated from Krishnagar for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

“Tapas did not make his presence felt in the Assembly during my tenure as leader of the Opposition…. He was hardly present in the House, but he would be present in party programmes,” said Pankaj Banerjee, who was with Trinamul but has retired from politics.

Regularity in party programmes helped Paul stay close to Mamata.

“In the heyday of the Left, Tapas was the only big Tollywood name to be with Mamata. He helped the party bring in more celebrities such as Satabdi Roy,” said a Trinamul source.

In the Lok Sabha, the actor was never seen participating in any discussion. With other MPs, too, his reaction was minimal.

Although Mamata used him in rural areas during her meetings to cash in on his star power, he remained on the sidelines and did not get any organisational post.

That Paul held a grudge against the party came out in the open recently.

In September 2013, Paul attended a blood donation camp along with then Trinamul rebel MP Somen Mitra, who has now rejoined the Congress. Trinamul MP Kunal Ghosh, who was arrested in the Saradha case later, was also at the event. Paul expressed dissatisfaction that he had to wait with a visitor’s slip to enter Writers’.

“Didi was very upset, but Tapas managed to get re-nominated from Krishnagar after he apologised to Mamata,” said a source.