Music, poetry and art are going to resound in the high-octane political drama to be played out for the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the 2009 elections.
Kabir Suman, the singing phenomenon of Kolkata in the nineties, is set to become the Trinamool Congress (TC) candidate in the prestigious Jadavpur constituency against the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI(M)).
Suman’s entry assumes significance because this was the constituency from which Mamata Banerjee began her parliamentary career in 1984, defeating the CPI(M) heavyweight Somnath Chatterjee, the present Lok Sabha Speaker.
If Kabir Suman is the face of Trinamool, a noted painter is the backroom boy: Suvaprasanna. Known for his portrayal of crows, Trinamool initially offered him a nomination for the election. “I received the offer from a responsible person. But it is not my job to contest elections,” he told Business Standard in a telephone interview.
The painter, however, has opted for another key role: as advisor to the maverick Trinamool chief, known for her volatile temper and politically creative moves. Top sources in the party say he has secured “a few good” corporate contacts for Banerjee. His bungalow at Kolkata’s Salt Lake suburb is the venue for most of Bannerjee’s strategy meetings. “I don’t have an ego. If somebody wants advice from me, I’ll definitely give advice. If I am in need of some advice and come to you, will you turn me away?” he said.
He added that “Bengal is stalled at a strange junction, engulfed in false political ideas" and needed to “discard this false communism.”
“Many great leaders from this state had planted the seeds of socialism here years ago. We don’t need the CPI(M) to teach us socialism,” Suvaprasanna said.
Film maker Aparna Sen was also approached by Trinamool leaders to contest the Lok Sabha election. The national award winner has, however, refused the offer. Meanwhile, top-ranking actress Shatabdi Roy will be the Trinamool candidate in the coming election. Roy’s political potential is untested but the party leadership is confident she will be able to win a Lok Sabha seat. But has not yet finalised which seat she'll contest from.
If Suvaprasanna and Kabir Suman are in the Trinamool camp, the CPI(M) has the support of artists like Wasim Riyaz Kapoor, another painter, who has been approached by the party's candidate for the North Kolkata seat, Md Salim to redesign his banners and posters.
Kapoor said he was ready to join Salim’s rallies and campaign for him. The CPI(M) leadership said it is going to leverage the ambiguity around the use of paintings – party rules debar the use of pictures in the election campaign but are silent about paintings – and get Kapoor to make portraits of Md Salim.
Left forces have always enjoyed the patronage of top artistes throughout its history. The Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) was a reservoir of talent with the likes of Salil Chowdhury, Sachin Dev Burman, Shambhu Mitra, Safdar Hashmi and Habib Tanveer, to name a few. Theatre and film personalities like Utpal Dutt and A K Hangal also contributed significantly to the Left movement in the state.
West Bengal Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty had once termed Usha Uthup’s performance as “uncultured”. The way Trinamool is roping in art stalwarts, this might come as a bigger cultural shock for the Left.