Can celebrities help the Trinamool defeat the BJP?

Can celebrities help the Trinamool defeat the BJP?

On Friday, as Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee announced her party’s candidate list for the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, a television news channel broadcast images from the office of Bengali film director Raj Chakraborty, who sat watching the chief minister’s press conference with a few actors.

The film personalities were in a celebratory mood. All of them had joined TMC a week ago. All of them appeared in the party’s candidate list.

Banerjee had done it earlier and has done it again. Nominating film actors and so-called apolitical candidates is nothing new for the Trinamool chief. Every time Banerjee prepares a list of candidates, speculation begins on which film star will secure a party nomination.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, she had fielded two Tollywood actors, Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan. This time she has given nominations to six television and film stars from Tollywood, Bengal entertainment industry. Adding to star quotient of the Trinamool’s 2021 candidate list are a kirtan singer, a former Indian Police Service officer, a Dalit writer and two sportspersons.

In the past, actors like Moonmoon Sen, Tapas Pal, Satabdi Roy, Sandhya Roy, Dev, Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan, Deboshree Roy, Chiranjeet Chakraborty have contested on a TMC ticket. They were either elected to the Parliament or the state assembly. Some did well as legislators. Some disappointed the people who elected them.

Others like actor Mithun Chakraborty, sent to the Rajya Sabha by the Trinamool in 2014, defected to the BJP.

But Banerjee’s experiment has not stopped. She continues to be generous in fielding star candidates.

At the press conference held on Friday, March 5, she said: “See, I have fielded young candidates.” Indeed, the star candidates are young – and definite crowd-pullers.

Usually, star candidates are brought in to contest seats plagued by a turf war between rival TMC politicians, which makes victory unlikely for a regular political candidate.

The celebrity candidate becomes Mamata Banerjee’s ambassador. The rival leaders come together to get the person elected to keep their ray of hope – of getting compensated in future by the supreme leader – alive.

But this formula doesn’t always work.

For one, it does not produce steady outcomes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, for instance, film actor Sandhya Roy snatched the Midnapore seat from the Left, but in 2019, former Congress MLA Manas Bhuniya, who switched sides to join Trinamool, could not retain the seat. State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Dilip Ghosh, won it.

In 2014, Banerjee picked actor Moonmoon Sen to contest the Bankura seat. She won. In 2019, she was sent to Asansol where the TMC’s labour wing leader Dola Sen had lost five years ago to BJP’s Babul Supriyo, apparently due to an internal fight in the party. But Moonmoon Sen could not win the seat either.

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