Box Office To Ballot Box Success Is Mamata Banerjee's Election Mantra

Actor Dev won in Ghatal and Moon Moon Sen in Bankura, both rural seats. Moon Moon Sen is now pitted against BJP's Babul Supriyo in Asansol.

Star power in elections is political strategy, say Trinamool Congress members and rivals


The late Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee once represented the Jadavpur constituency in Lok Sabha. Mamata Banerjee shock-defeated him in 1984. The incumbent Trinamool lawmaker, Sugata Bose, is a history professor at Harvard University in the US. He can't contest so Mamata Banerjee has fielded to this venerable seat a young film star Mimi Chakraborty who has made her mark on the Bengali silver screen with hits like Crisscross, Villain and Total Dadagiri.

Mimi Chakraborty is not alone. Nusrat Jahan, a star of Zulfiqar, Love Express, Kelor Kirti and more has been fielded at Basirhat - a communally sensitive seat on the Indo-Bangladesh border. In fact, at least five of her 42 candidates are film stars.

"Why not?", Mamata Banerjee snaps back when asked why there are so many film stars on her list, including four women.

"Jey randhey, shey chool o baandhey," said Ms Banerjee. (Your wife minds the home and also goes to work).

Nusrat Jahan explained it thus: "I don't think there is anything is impossible for a woman to balance. Women are very empowered these days. When we can take care of one profession, we can take care of humankind also."

It is political strategy, say party colleagues and rivals. A star is an eyeball grabber turned vote catcher. Once fielded, a star kills off factional fights in the party. If they lose, the party can shrug it off. If they win, its a feather in the party's cap.

"Those successful at the box office are always an attraction for the voter. In the past also, we have given nominations to film stars. Mamata has repeated the same," said Trinamool MP Sougata Roy, adding, "This not confined to Trinamool. BJP had Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini and Dharmendra. Congress also had Nagma. Some regional parties thrive on film stars."

But is the move a morale dampener for regular party workers? Mr Roy said, "I haven't heard anybody complaining."

"Question is not being awestruck or starstruck...The question as a people's representative, you are being able to deliver. I think politics is serious business," said Riju Ghoshal of the Congress.

The strategy worked for the Trinamool Congress supremo in 2014. Actor Dev won in Ghatal and Moon Moon Sen in Bankura, both rural seats. Moon Moon Sen is now pitted against BJP's Babul Supriyo in Asansol.

Babul Supriyo responded with a light hearted tweet:

But Moon Moon Sen slayed a giant in 2014 -- nine term CPM lawmaker Basudev Acharjee.

The question marks will always remain, also sniggers about eye candy versus real politics. But Mamata Banerjee is making the most of it, if not of a new, then definitely a winning formula: it is one step away from a box office success to a ballot box victory.

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