Stars add glamour to Trinamool’s campaign in Bengal
The controversial seizure of land for industry by the ruling communists in West Bengal may be the biggest chink in their armour for the 2009 polls.
Enter Tapas Paul. The archetypal Bengali film hero in the closing decades of the 20th century is already a lawmaker in the state assembly.
This time around, Paul is setting sights on a seat in parliament.
The baby-faced and paunchy actor usually played the saintly do-gooder in tearjerkers that won him many hearts in rural areas.
Now Paul and his long-time heroine Satabdi Roy are adding colour to the election campaign of Trinamool Congress.
Both may be past their prime but they are still crowd pullers in their constituencies — in fact, an overcrowded stage gave way recently when Roy was out campaigning.
The party has yet another trump card.
Singer Kabir Suman, a favourite among Bengalis, is now trying to sing his way to voters’ hearts.
Suman is pitted against communist heavyweight Sujan Chakraborty in Jadavpur constituency of southern Kolkata.
Given their record, the communists shouldn’t be overly worried.
West Bengal is home to the world’s longest-serving, democratically-elected communist government, and the left’s domination of the state’s 42 seats allowed them to win the balance of power after the last 2004 general election.
But things are different now.
Even communist leaders recognise they have a battle on their hands after a backlash against attempts to industrialise the region.
At least 50 people, mostly farmers, have been killed in protests over land disputes with West Bengal’s government since 2007.
Last year, the state government was forced to cancel a chemicals complex project in Nandigram, a cluster of villages, after running battles between farmers, police and communist cadres.
In October, Tata Motors moved the Nano factory in Singur — slated to produce the world’s cheapest car — out of the state after villagers blocked highways to protest the seizure of their land.
The land seizure has become a major political issue and some say much of the intelligentsia in West Bengal has switched allegiance to the Trinamool Congress.
So is an upset on the cards? And how effective will Trinamool’s star-studded campaign be? We’ll know on May 16.
(For Reuters coverage of the 2009 general elections, click here )