The saffron camp, apparently in a bid to establish a Bengal connect, produced on the Brigade dais Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the BJP on Sunday to complete a full circle in politics from the far Left in his youth to the far right at age 70.
The BJP, having lost the opportunity of fielding the seemingly unassailable BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly, purportedly because of his health, tried pitching the veteran actor as its prize catch for the Narendra Modi event. Chakraborty ruled nothing out in his interaction with journalists after the event, including the possibility of being “the face” of the BJP’s campaign to wrest Bengal from Mamata Banerjee.
The actor, who showed up in Bengali dhuti-kurta, underscored his “proud Bengali” credentials and played to the gallery. “Those who try to snatch people’s rights, some like us (pointing at BJP leaders) will stand firm as obstacles….Marbo ekhaney, lash porbey shawshaney (I will hit you here, and your corpse will land in a crematorium),” said Chakraborty to loud cheers.
“...Everything that has been said here (by the BJP leaders on the dais), if all of that is put together, what it means is this: Heley noi, jawldhnorao noi, beleyborao noi. Ami…amra jaat gokhro. Ek chhoboley chhobi (I am not a non-venomous snake. I am…we are purebred cobras. One bite is enough to kill)…,” he added, apparently referring to his new party’s leadership striving to win Bengal.
By joining the BJP on Sunday, Chakraborty went in over five decades from being a Naxalite activist in his youth, to a CPM-backer later, to becoming a Rajya Sabha member briefly as a Trinamul leader, to enlisting in the BJP.
“Today is a dream come true for me. I came from a narrow cul-de-sac behind the Jorabagan police station (in north Calcutta)…back then, I had dreamt I would do something with my life. But never did I dream that I would be part of such a dais...where the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy is supposed to arrive...” said the three-time National Award-winning actor, who has been a singer, producer, writer, social worker, entrepreneur, television presenter and politician.
“I also had another dream. That I would do something for the poor. Today, I feel, I can see that dream again...” he added, apparently explaining his decision to return to politics after a hiatus of over five years.
In 2015, Mamata had said Chakraborty was keeping away from her because of a fear of political witch-hunt in the Saradha scam.
This was a year after she had sent him to the Rajya Sabha, and a year before he stepped down. Chakraborty was not an accused in the Saradha case. He had been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate as he was one of the brand ambassadors of Saradha. When he quit Trinamul, sources close to him had said he was shattered when his name was dragged into the controversy.
Chakraborty used to be known for his desire to help people in need. He also took pride in being among the highest income-tax payers in the country, a rarity in show business in the 1980s when his Bollywood movies were box-office hits and he was known as the “poor man’s Amitabh Bachchan”.
Even in 2006-07, his role as a thug-turned-politician with a heart of gold in the Fatakeshto films had found wide acceptability among the audience in Bengal.
After the event, speaking to journalists, Chakraborty said plans were being drawn up for him to be a key part of an extensive campaign schedule across the state for his new party.
He said would not blame anybody or say anything foul against his former party or its leadership. “It was my own decision (to join Trinamul). A bad one, a wrong one,” he said, after a 15-minute one-on-one. Asked specifically if he is to be the BJP’s face — the de facto chief ministerial candidate for its Bengal campaign — Chakraborty neither confirmed nor denied it, saying: “I will not break protocol.”
“In any case, I am a man of films. Why should I say everything at one go? It will all slowly be revealed,” he added.
Trinamul veteran Subrata Mukherjee said Chakraborty’s move was “unfortunate”. “He is a very good man, a good human being…I don’t know what happened for him to take this unfortunate decision,” said the senior minister.