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Feluda to literary giants, all turn red

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April 24, 2006 16:34 IST
The heat is on in the West Bengal polls. And the humid, stifling Kolkata summer has nothing to do with it.

The state assembly elections, which began rather quietly with the shadow of the gun looming over them, have turned into a full-fledged battle of lungpower, people power and star power.

If the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have brought in all-India heavyweights like Arun Jaitley, Lal Krishna Advani and Sonia Gandhi, the ruling Left Front has unleashed the inimitable Lalu Prasad Yadav.

But beyond the political battle lines, the Communist Party of India-Marxist has deployed a second front – of state actors and intellectuals. Like Sabyasachi Chakraborty, who has done a number of small roles in Bollywood movies like Parineeta, but who is better known here as the man who took over the screen role of Bengal's Sherlock Holmes – Feluda. 

"I am a hardcore fan of [West Bengal Chief Minister] Buddhadev Bhattacharya," says Chakraborty, who played the part of the private detective -- created by Satyajit Ray and immortalised by Soumitra Chatterjee in Ray's films -- with aplomb.

"And that is nothing recent. I have known him [Bhattacharya] as a theatre personality. I have acted in a play written by him. I think Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Company are a good lot," says the actor, campaigning for fellow thespian Biplab Chatterjee, who is fighting screen hero Tapas Pal, a Trinamool candidate, in Alipore, Kolkata.

"I believe in the Leftist ideology, and that is why I have campaigned for Biplab and not campaigned for another friend of mine, Tapas Pal," says Chakraborty.

Another star Left Front campaigner is one of Bengal's biggest literary giants, Sunil Gangopadhyay. He has been campaigning for CPM strongman and state transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty.

"In the democracy I believe in, there should be an Opposition, and it should come to power and the ruling party should become Opposition. But unfortunately, there is no Opposition in West Bengal," says Gangopadhyay, who is as famous as a children's writer as a novelist.

"There are just a few broken parties without any ideology who are too caught up in internal squabbles. I believe handing power over to them is even more dangerous," continues the author.

"The Left Front has many shortcomings, but I have two major fears: That the communal harmony of West Bengal should not be disturbed – they [Trinamool Congress] have alliances with the BJP. My other fear is now that West Bengal is heading towards some development, it should not be disturbed."

Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya had appealed to actors and screen artists to throw their weight behind the Left Front.

The appeal seems to have worked. Riding atop horse-driven carriages – a new trend in Bengal polls – you can spot many Bengali stars like veteran comedian Chinmay Ray, and even popular television show anchors.

Add to that the abundant caps and t-shirts created to beat the Election Commission's directive on no graffiti, the average of six election meetings a day, and the political temperature is not difficult to gauge.

Trinamool chief and the Opposition's chief ministerial candidate Mamata Banerjee has been firing verbal volleys against exit polls and surveys – most of which say the Left Front is about to come to power for the seventh consecutive term.

Chief Minister Bhattacharya has held fast on two issues. One is the new development scenario in Bengal, and the other the threat of communalism from the BJP-leaning Trinamool.

Sumit Bhattacharya in Kolkata