“Bappida,ektu u-la-la ta shonan na” (Bappida sing u-la-la from Dirty picture) screamed an adolescent boy as BJP candidate Alokesh aka Bappi Lahiri’s procession made a pitstop in one of the lanes of Sreerampur in a hot April afternoon. As bemused Bappida looked on searching for an answer, the crowd which surrounded him was too starstruck to bother about which song the original disco king ultimately croons for them. As chants of “Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi” filled the air of this mofussil area, Bappida looked satisfied with the support he is getting.
Bappida, the politician
For a generation which came after Bappi Lahiri did his best works, he was often associated with trademark bling clothes, flashy goggles and as a judge in virtually any non-descript reality show. Thus it was a surprise for many when Bappi Lahiri fondly known as bappida decided to join BJP. More surprise was in store when his candidature was announced from Sreerampur, a strong bastion of Trinamool Congress. People wondered if he was being made a sacrificial lamb.
But in a month of campaign, the charismatic music director has allayed all fears of his supporters. He has taken to politics like fish to water. In his own characteristic way, Bappida seems to have carved a niche among people of the constituency. BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi doing a rally in Sreerampur to canvass support for this veteran musician is a testimony to the hype he has generated.
Bappida faces a formidable challenge in Kalyan Banerjee, one time M.P and one of the young faces of Trinamool Congress. He is to TMC what Manish Tiwary is to Congress. Combative to the point of hostile this young lawyer shot to fame with his verbal attacks against Buddhhadeb Bhattacharjee. But even his detractors agree that Kalyan has done a lot for the constituency. He was not one of those invisible leaders who disappeared after getting a mandate. Teething problems like poor water supply in the area and some unfulfilled train projects remain. In normal circumstances though, Kalyan was expected to cruise despite those issues. But the changing political scenario has meant he is virtually run from pillar to post to ensure his victory.
The political equation
Not only BJP and TMC, Sreerampur has couple of formidable candidates in Left and Congress too. Congress has fielded veteran leader and a popular face in TV debates, Abdul Mannan from here. He will probably not win but is likely to attract a fair share of the “secular” votes. CPIM has a new candidate in Tirthankar Roy. Left can always depend on their ever receding but still formidable core vote bank. So it is a classical four way shoot out at Sreerampur. Many believe Tirthankar Roy will win thanks to division in anti-Left vote which is virtually the default template of CPIM’s optimism in every seat of South Bengal.
The problem for Bappida is BJP has extremely weak organisation in this constituency. In the last LokSabha election, BJP candidate had his deposit forfeited. Thus people may greet him for his impromptu “Bombai se aya Sreerampur ka dost” improvisation, but electorally it is a long way to go. Bappida though remains unfazed.
There have been reports of TMC workers trying to put spanner in his campaign. Bappida was (some may say naively) quoted as saying he would complain to didi about these disturbances. The ace musician who once also campaigned for Congress believes his good relationship with Mamata will endure irrespective of what transpires in elections. Bappida ends every rally with a hit song from Bengali film Amar Sangi called “Chirodini tumi je amar” (you are mine, for eternity). Will Sreerampore respond to his call for love? We will know soon…..