When Mamata Banerjee first announced the name of Deepak Adhikary alias Dev for the Ghatal constituency in West Midnapore, there was collective gasp of disbelief. Dev, the reigning superstar of Tollywood i.e. the Bengali film industry had till then not shown any distinct political affiliation. Sure he paid obeisance to the all-powerful didi like most in Bengal, but few placed bets on Dev fighting an election that too in the peak of his career. Most wandered, was it merely a political stunt?
Dev, the committed politician
In nearly one and half months of campaigning, Dev has allayed the fears of most of his doubters. Undoubtedly Dev still has a long way to go even if he wins. It will be extremely tricky for him to manage his film schedules with sessions in Parliament. But the message Dev has managed to convey is that he is in the race for the long haul, not to be fizzled out after couple of laps. Braving the heat, he is crisscrossing the entire constituency. There has been virtual tsunami of people wherever he is doing his roadshows. A newspaper reported that in some cases, even schools are getting shut early so that both students and teachers can catch a glimpse of their favourite “paglu”.
Trying to be a unifying force
Dev, originally a computer engineer is certainly not naïve and realises that not all people who are thronging his rally will vote for TMC. But he is trying to leverage his popularity cutting across political lines to bring supporters of the two major parties together. Ghatal constituency was formed in 2009 after Panskura ceased to exist; post delimitation of seats.
Panskura in West Midnapore was the site of original turf war between TMC and CPIM, way back in the early 2000’s when Singur and Nandigram were still unknown names. There was vicious political fight in places like Keshpur (Dev hails from there) where TMC originally broke CPIM’s fiefdom but soon faced massive counter attack from Left cadres. Dev is well aware of these clashes and the deep scars it has left behind. Thus in every rally, he gives the message of peace. Dev even hopped to the home of his main opponent CPI’s Santosh Rana and shared tea with him as a symbolic gesture. In a state where chasm between political parties has grown deep, Dev (32) is trying to alter the discourse in his own little way.
The current M.P from Ghatal is veteran politician Gurudas Dasgupta of C.P.I. Parliamentarian for 25 years, Gurudas decided to not run for re-election citing age. Thus CPI has been forced to nominate relatively inexperienced Santosh Rana. Congress has a formidable candidate in ex party state President Manas Bhuniya who has considerable influence in parts of Ghatal. BJP is a minor force here. If Panchayat election results are any indicator, TMC should win comfortably having extra advantage of Dev’s popularity. But the opposition believes if fair polls are held, ruling party will have its work cut out.
Intellectuals still not convinced
Eminent actor Proshenjit Chatterjee fondly known as Bumbada only got thumbs up from intellectuals after doing critically acclaimed films of directors like late Rituparno Ghosh. Dev is still sneered by antel (intellectual) bongs for his faulty Bengali, for doing supposedly crass movies and overall lack of “worldview”. His controversial comment saying he feels like being raped after joining politics only added to the pre-existing notion. Many believe didi has done a disservice to Bengal by nominating this superstar. If Dev wins (he probably will) he has to not only fight against his political opponents but also this battle of perception. But as Dev famously said in one of his movies “Challenge dibi na saala (don’t dare challenge me)”; the lanky superstar is more than ready for a good fight.