Voting in the Indian state of West Bengal will be held in eight phases, with the second phase of voting on Thursday and the final round of voting taking place on 29 April. The results will be declared on 2 May.
India’s federally ruling BJP and West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress have hedged their bets on star power to win the ongoing political battle in the state legislature.
This time, state elections are witnessing a bitter political contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC). It is because the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC is aiming to retain power for a third consecutive term and the BJP wants to unseat it.
Both parties are hoping to win voters’ hearts. They wish to swing votes in their favour while relying heavily on the celebrity appeal of their candidates.
Most of these celebrity candidates have been fielded in “tough” seats, known for being rival party bastions.
The star power of the BJP includes MP Babul Supriyo, an Indian playback singer, live performer, television host, actor-turned-politician. He will contest from Tollygunge in Kolkata. He defeated his Trinamool Congress rival Dola Sen by 60,000 votes during the 2014 state assembly elections.
Srabanti Chatterjee, another BJP candidate, is an Indian actress who worked in Bengali language films. Srabanti joined the BJP months ahead of the assembly elections. She is contesting from the Behala Paschim constituency.
Like Srabanti, Payel Sarkar is an Indian actress. She appeared in Bengali films and Hindi television, and joined the BJP weeks ahead of the elections. She is running from the Behala Purba area and will face a tough fight as the seat is a Trinamool Congress bastion.
Model-turned-actress Anjana Basu has been fielded by the BJP from the Sonarpur South area, which again is a Trinamool Congress bastion. Yash Dasgupta, a hugely popular face on the big screen has been fielded by the BJP for the Chanditala assembly seat and is up against a seasoned rival, Mohammad Salim of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), an archrival of TMC.
State Chief Mamata Banerjee sprung a surprise when she announced the list of candidates from Trinamool Congress contesting the elections. Her list contained several actors, writers, and fashion designers, among others.
Saayoni Ghosh, a singer and actor, has been fielded by Trinamool Congress from Asansol Dakshin, a constituency the BJP has maintained a lead in the past few elections. She is pitted against celebrity fashion designer Agnimitra Paul who is the BJP’s candidate from the constituency.
Renowned director Raj Chakraborty, one of the most commercially successful filmmakers in the southern Indian cinema fraternity, an actor and producer himself, has been fielded by TMC from Barrackpore. He has been pitted against heavyweight BJP parliamentarian Arjun Singh.
Sayantika Banerjee, a Bengali actress who joined the Trinamool Congress ahead of elections, has been fielded from the Bankura constituency against BJP candidate Niladri Sekhar Dana.
Star candidates prove a great help for parties as crowd pullers during political rallies.
One of the biggest election rallies witnessed in the state this time was that of Bollywood superstar Mithun Chakraborty who joined the BJP days ahead of the elections. He has also revealed his personal admiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the BJP.
Though it was anticipated that he would be fielded as a candidate, the actor reportedly declined a ticket and remained content doing what he does best – delivering power-packed movie dialogues to enthusiastic crowds. The rallies with him have been the biggest crowd pullers for the BJP.