Union Minister Takes On Trinamool's Heavyweight In Battle For Bengal's Tinsel Town Tollygunge

West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021: Apart from the development of the area which witnessed a spurt in the construction business in the past 20 years or so, it is the film industry that drives the politics in the seat. A firm control over the film industry is a must to win the seat.

Union Minister Takes On Trinamool's Heavyweight In Battle For Bengal's Tinsel Town Tollygunge

Babul Supriyo is pitted against TMC heavyweight and PWD Minister Aroop Biswas in Tollygunge (File)

Kolkata:

The high profile Tollygunge seat, considered a hub of the Bengali film industry, is all set for a clash of titans as Union minister Babul Supriyo is pitted against TMC heavyweight and PWD Minister Aroop Biswas with the cine industry's development as their main poll plank.

Apart from the development of the area which witnessed a spurt in the construction business in the past 20 years or so, it is the film industry that drives the politics in the seat. A firm control over the film industry is a must to win the seat.

The CPI(M), which was the runner up in the 2016 polls, has fielded a fresh face - actor Debdut Ghosh - in the constituency which has several film studios and will go to polls in the fourth phase on April 10.

With the TMC and the BJP locked in a bitter battle for Bengal, the film industry has now been polarised on political lines.

But control over the industry is incomplete without a victory in the seat, situated in posh South Kolkata and home to mixed demography of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, upper-middle-class, refugees and Hindi speaking people.

The BJP has fielded two-time MP and Union minister Babul Supriyo, also a renowned singer, to wrest the seat from the three-time TMC MLA Aroop Biswas who has a long association with the film industry.

Mr Supriyo, the BJP MP of Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district, is confident of unsettling the clout of Biswas.

"A syndicate raj has been established in the film industry by the TMC and Biswas brothers (Aroop and Swarup). For the development of the Bengali film industry, this syndicate raj has to end. The BJP will take it forward to new heights," Mr Supriyo said.

The union minister alleged that the studio para -- the neighbourhood of New Theatres studio, Technicians Studio and the NT1 studio -- has witnessed "unprecedented coercion" by the two brothers who forced technicians and artists to either follow their diktats or go without a job in these 10 years.

"We will end this dictatorship. A large section of artists and technicians have already publicly pledged their support (to us). Others will come out after May 2 (when results will be out)," he said.

The BJP leader also said that the "syndicate raj and cut money culture prevalent in the construction sector" in Tollygunge must stop.

In West Bengal, "syndicate" means the business run by persons allegedly enjoying political patronage, who force promoters and contractors to buy construction materials, often of inferior quality, at high prices.

CPI(M) candidate Debdut Ghosh said that although the TMC has established a "reign of terror in the industry", but choosing the BJP would be a "harakiri" as the parties are two sides of the same coin.

Aroop Biswas, however, said that the TMC has worked for the industry's development and has taken it to new heights in the last 10 years.

"The BJP and Bengali culture are anti-thesis of each other. Both can never go together. Those joining the BJP will soon realise this and regret their decision," the three-time MLA said.

Rubbishing Mr Supriyo's allegations, Mr Biswas said, "The government only comes in when there is a crisis in the film industry, and various bodies seek its intervention."

He claimed that unlike the CPIM regime, there had been no interference in businesses and entrepreneurial activities in the past 10 years.

However, The TMC's influence over the Tollygunge-based film industry, known by its portmanteau Tollywood, since even before Mamata Banerjee's ascendance to power in 2011, seems to have been waning with several celebrities shifting their allegiance to the saffron party.

Ironically, the BJP, which seeks to unseat the TMC from power, has taken a leaf out of Ms Banerjee's strategy of soliciting the tinsel town's support towards its causes and fielding actors in elections.

The BJP, which attempts to shed the "outsider" tag and make a place in the Bengali psyche, has left no stone unturned to attract big names of the film industry into the fold. The TMC, which has an affinity for celebrities and has several actors as its MLAs and MPs, too fielded a considerable number of cine stars in the elections.

A huge rally of technicians were taken out in Tollygunge to protest against the alleged attempt by saffron forces to sow seeds of discord in the entertainment industry, said Swarup Biswas, the president of an association of technicians.

However, Sanghamitra Choudhury, BJP leader andnoffice-bearer of another union of artists and technicians, said, "The intimidation and threat of Biswas brothers won't continue. (Mr) Supriyo's election will be a game-changer."

The segment also witnessed a high voltage campaign as yesteryear actress and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan held a colourful roadshow canvassing for Aroop Biswas, while BJP national president JP Nadda took part in a roadshow in favour of Mr Supriyo.

The assembly segment has been a bastion of the CPI(M) since the early 1960s. However, in 1996, the Congress won the seat. Since 2001, it has been a stronghold of the TMC, and Aroop Biswas has been its representative since 2006.

The constituency has a huge refugee population in areas like Bijoygarh, Ranikuthi and Netajinagar, where people from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had settled in the 50s and 60s. They are also a key to victory in this assembly segment, which has 2,69,358 voters.

Although Mr Biswas is known for his availability 24*7, there are allegations that TMC councillors of the constituency are not found at the hour of need.

Dipankar Ghosh, a voter in the Regent Park area of the constituency, said, "People are aggrieved due to the shoddy and preferential rescue and rehabilitation work during the Cyclone Amphan (in May 2020) when people in many localities had to spend 5-6 days without electricity."

Sabyasachi Basu, another resident, said although there has been considerable development in civic issues, the TMC representatives are not seen regularly in their localities.