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Pizza to poll, Horlicks to heat

Soham battles infighting, celebrity’s cross

By ABHIJEET CHATTERJEE
  • Published 8.04.16
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Deb (left) campaigns for Soham in Borjora. Picture by Sujata Khan

Borjora (Bankura), April 7: College student Priyanka Gorai was surprised to see the pizza delivery boy from Golpo Holeo Sotti at her doorstep, seeking her vote.

Homemaker Santana Mahapatra, 55, got nostalgic when she saw the "Horlicks boy" approach her with his hands folded.

In his new role in politics, the various characters Soham Chakraborty has played in his films since the '80s are his biggest USP.

Mamata Banerjee has fielded the actor from the Borjora Assembly seat, which votes on April 11, in faction-ridden Bankura.

For residents of this dusty town, this is their first brush with a film star. Final-year student Priyanka, who loved the 2014 thriller Golpo Holeo Sotti, and Santana, who still gets emotional when she recalls young Soham pleading with his mother for Horlicks in the 1988 blockbuster Chhoto Bou, took selfies and shook hands with Soham.

Soham's turn as a child born into a family going through a financial crisis had made him a household name, with people calling him "Horlicks boy". The star begins his campaign in the sweltering heat by sipping Glucon-D.

Several stars are canvassing for Soham. Dev has campaigned for him and is expected to do so again tomorrow. Other tinsel town colleagues like Mimi Chakraborty and Subhasree are also supposed to seek votes for Soham.

The pizza delivery boy's role may have struck a chord with Priyanka, but some voters are asking if Soham, if elected, will apply the same deadline-driven yardsticks that are set by fast-food companies.

"Will it be possible for him to solve our problems promptly?" asked Swapan Haldar, a private bank employee.

Mamata selected Soham after rejecting 32 nomination applications sent from Borjora, including one from outgoing MLA Ashutosh Mukherjee.

The actor, who is a regular at Trinamul events, will have to tackle factional rivalry before the battle of the ballot.

Mukherjee's followers said they were unhappy that he was the only sitting Trinamul MLA in the district to have been denied a ticket.

"The party has nominated those accused of having links with deposit-mobilisation companies and involvement in booth capturing and beating up presiding officer in previous polls, but dropped Mukherjee from the list. It is surprising that Soham, who doesn't have any link with politics and common people, has been made a candidate. We will not cooperate with him," a Trinamul leader in Borjora said.

Sources said Mamata thought Soham to be the "fittest" candidate because had a district leader been chosen, it could have triggered a sabotage because many leaders had staked claim to the seat.

On March 8, Soham went to Mukherjee's house and sought his blessings by touching his feet. "I need your blessings and cooperation to win the election. This is our joint battle," a party worker quoted Soham as saying.

Mukherjee said Soham had come to his house to seek his blessings, but added he "would not say anything else".

Bankura Trinamul president Arup Khan said he was trying to mollify dissident party workers.

Soham said he was confident of winning. "Didi has made me the candidate and people love her. I am a celebrity, whom people will come to see and take photographs with, but they will actually vote for Didi. So there is no chance of any discontent. The party workers are united and I will definitely win. I have promised the people to pay attention to my constituency and come here frequently," he said.

The CPM drew attention to the "drawbacks" of fielding celebrities in elections.

"See what happened in the neighbouring Bankura Lok Sabha seat. Actress Moon Moon Sen defeated our veteran MP Basudeb Acharia, but what has she done for her constituency? People cannot recall seeing her there. Has she taken up in Parliament any of the local problems? The same happened in the other places where celebrities won elections on Trinamul tickets," said Sujit Chakraborty, the CPM's Borjora candidate who is being backed by the Congress.