It is no secret that the daughter of the legendary yesteryear actor Suchitra Sen is riding on the wave of her mother’s popularity. Ms. Sen, in fact has no qualms in admitting that. “Why shouldn’t I do so? Not everyone can say they are Suchitra Sen’s daughter,” she said when asked if she was appealing for votes on her mother’s name.
A debutante in politics, although she was wooed by several political parties, when asked her what made her choose to contest from a Trinamool Congress ticket, she replied: “Only because of [State Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee, because she is very genuine.”
“I’ve heard a lot of people running her down because she is a woman because she did not have the right background but she communicated with the people… who have given her this stronghold that no one can deny,” she said.
Going on to praise her party and party chief Ms. Banerjee, Ms. Sen said: “The CPI (M) was big party and there were a whole lot of them doing this, starting from Karl, Lenin and Marx… She [Ms. Banerjee] did it alone and she has no agenda other than to help the needy and provide a change from people who haven’t bothered to work… She had nothing to fall back on, no theology or ideology. She’s a very brave woman, like a man. She’s getting things done slowly.”
In spite of the Trinamool Congress’ spectacular victory in the 2009 Assembly polls, Bankura has been a tough nut to crack. The constituency has been a CPI(M) stronghold with its candidate Basudeb Acharia winning from the constituency for the past nine terms, since 1980. In the 2009 Assembly polls, political heavyweight Subrata Mukherjee from the Congress, which was then allying with the Trinamool, was defeated by Mr. Acharia. This, however, does not seem to daunt Ms. Sen, who is confident of winning.
“My opponent has been elected… by people who are now saying ‘Why aren’t you bringing us water?’ In two and a half years [since the Trinamool came to power], power plants and water pipes have come up… this doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t turn around and ask Basudeb Acharia why there is no water. You keep on re-electing him,” she said.
Asked how confident she was even after a seasoned politician like Mr. Mukherjee lost, Ms. Sen said: “He didn’t actually lose because he brought in the face of the Trinamool in a very big way and they had a different purpose of fielding him which I don’t want to discuss. It’s not my business. I’m their candidate and no matter who their candidate was, they are going to win.”
The Trinamool invited its share of ridicule and criticism when it fielded non-political candidates. While superstar and matinee idol Dev, alias Deepak Adhikary, made his debut from Ghatal constituency, yesteryear actor Sandhya Roy was fielded from Medinipur. Soccer star Baichung Bhutia will be contesting from Darjeeling and singer Indranil Sen is contesting from Berhampore. When asked if Ms. Banerjee was riding on the wave of these stars’ popularity to win votes, Ms. Sen said: “I think it’s a very European concept, she’s breaking down the barrier between different classes — rich and poor, urban and rural. She’s saying we’re all standing on the same platform. She’s bringing these stars nearer to people who want to watch them and she’s making everything accessible. I think she’s doing a good job. I’ve been living in an ivory tower and she brings me down to people who want to see me, my mother and kids [actor Raima Sen and Riya Sen], there’s nothing wrong in that. It’s not going to give her a vote but she’s doing it with a purpose. She herself is very accessible and she wants an undivided society.”
Claiming that actors’ entering into politics is natural, she said: “In films you have to be so political, it is not funny. You’re being taken for a ride every minute so you learn to exist… and learn to be political and you put on a smile so that everyone continues to think you’re a dim-wit, but you’re not. And then you get into politics so you can use that experience.”
With less than a month left for the constituency to go to polls, the battle for Bankura seems to be hotting up. Pitted against a nine-time champion for whom she holds “great respect”, it remains to be seen how Ms. Sen and her party can use Suchitra Sen’s popularity to win over people’s confidence.