Kolkata: Political parties engaged in a fierce fight to capture power in West Bengal have, once again, put their faith in stars from cricket to cinema and other fields to lure the voters in the coming assembly elections.
Bhaichung Bhutia and Lakshmi Ratan Shukla
In the past, these candidates have proved their talent with the willow or nimble footwork on the football field. They have shone under the arclights or showcased their gift of the gab. Having earned accolades in their fields, they are now ready to face the rough and tumble of the political arena.
A few of them are first-timers. Others have tested political waters earlier too. Their political inexperience notwithstanding, they all are now active in sounding out the voters in their respective constituencies like career politicians.
Voting will take place on April 4, 11, 17, 21, 25 and 30 and May 5 for the 294-member West Bengal assembly.
The candidates' list of the ruling Trinamool Congress has ample star power once again. They include former Indian cricketer Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, Bengali actor Soham Chakraborty, Board of Control for Cricket in India's late president Jagmohan Dalmiya's daughter Vaishali. and Indian football ex-captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
Vaishali Dalmiya claims the solid backing of Indian cricket legend and Cricket Association of Bengal president Sourav Ganguly.
Unlike others, Bhutia is no stranger to politics. He lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a Trinamool ticket. Actor turned politician Debashree Roy, the legislator from Raidighi, will again lock horns with Communist Party of India-Marxist heavyweight Kanti Ganguly.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Trinamool's prominent candidates included actors Moon Moon Sen, Sandhya Roy and Bengali movie superstar Dev who contested against heavyweight opponents and emerged victorious with solid margins.
This time, two more soccer stars, Syed Rahim Nabi and Dipendu Biswas, have netted Trinamool nominations.
Nabi is a first-time candidate from Pandua. Former India soccer skipper Dipendu Biswas, who lost the bypoll from Basirhat (South) in 2014, would fight from the same constituency this time over.
On the other end, challengers CPI-M and the Congress, which have waged a combined political battle against the Trinamool, too have their own share of star power to fall back on.
Upping the political ante for the CPI-M is former Asian Games gold medallist runner Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, a former member of parliament.
The BJP too is trying to tap Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's legacy in this part of India by fielding his grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose in Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee's constituency Bhawanipore.
The BJP star candidates include actress turned politician Locket Chatterjee, who was once close to Banerjee but quit Trinamool, and actress Rupa Ganguly who is best known for portraying Draupadi in B.R. Chopra's epic 'Mahabharat' TV serial.
Another wellknown Bengali actor Joy Bandopadhyay, who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, is fighting from Birbhum district's Suri on a BJP ticket.
Kargil war veteran Colonel Diptanshu Chaudhury may have said farewell to firearms but he is getting ready to test himself in battleground Bengal. He is a BJP candidate from Asansol South in Burdwan district.
Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, who was arrested for circulating emails mocking Banerjee, has also thrown his hat in the ring as an Independent.
Rights group 'Aakranta Aamraa', a forum of "victims of human rights violations under the Mamata Banerjee rule", has announced the candidature of Pratima Dutta, wife of murdered green activist Tapan Dutta from Domjur in Howrah district.