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Why Mamata Banerjee loves to pick celebrity candidates for elections: 3 reasons

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Kolkata, March 12: West Bengal ruling party Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Tuesday, March 12, announced its candidates for the upcoming seven-phase Lok Sabha election in the state starting April 11. The announcement came just two days after the Election Commission announced the schedule of the general election. Besides Bengal, Bihar and UP are the two other states that will have a seven-phase election,

Why Mamata Banerjee loves to pick celebrity candidates for elections: 3 reasons

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday announced the names of the candidates at a press conference called in her own residence in Kalighat. The ruling party, which won 34 out of 42 seats of the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, is contesting the election alone and in all seats. The list was unveiled soon after the party had its internal meeting.

Mamata fields two popular actresses: Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat

Among the winners of 2014 who are not contesting this time are historian and kin of Netaji Subhas Chandra Basu, Sugata Basu; veteran actress Sandhya Roy and senior party leader Subrata Bakshi. Another veteran actress Moon Moon Sen will contest against BJP MP Babul Supriya in Asansol (last time she fought from Bankura) while reigning superstar Dev will contest from his own seat Ghatal.

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Another veteran actress Satabdi Roy will contest from her seat Birbhum since 2009. Banerjee roped in two more popular young actresses Nusrat Jahan who will contest from Basirhat and Mimi Chakraborty who will contest from Jadavpur, a posh constituency in South Kolkata. Banerjee herself had won her first parliamentary election from Jadavpur as a Congress candidate in 1984 defeating a heavyweight opponent in late Somnath Chatterjee.

Banerjee's obsession with fielding celebrities as candidates is not new. In the past also, she had picked filmstars for various elections - national and Assembly - and the party now has a number of MPs and MLAs who are not hardcore politicians but imports from the glamour world. Yesteryear actor Biswajit and former Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia had also contested the last Lok Sabha election for the TMC but faced defeats.

The BJP also tried to take a leaf out of the TMC's book in Bengal by fielding faces like Supriyo and Bappi Lahiri in the Lok Sabha election and the efforts produced mixed results. For parties like the BJP, it is still understandable that it tries to make up for its organisational weakness in Bengal by roping in glamorous candidates.

But being a party in operation in the state for over two decades and in power for eight years now, why does the TMC still has to bank on the glamour factor to win elections?

Candidates don't matter, it's Mamata who matters

One reason is the party's over-reliance on one face which is the supremo herself. It doesn't matter who really contests the election for it is Banerjee who the party looks up to as its ultimate saviour. In the 2016 Assembly election, Banerjee had single-handedly seen her party win a record number of seats despite the Saradha and Narada allegations. It is unlikely that things will be different this time.

Glamour factor buries party's inner squabble

Another major reason why Banerjee strategises selection of glamour candidates is that it helps, at least in the face of it - to bury the party's internal squabble. Factionalism has been a major problem for the TMC all throughout and choosing a local face could widen the rift in the organisation. It becomes easier for the top leadership to settle for a celebrity for that not only pushes the rift under the carpet but also makes it attractive for the common people to choose their leader.

Celebrity candidates will not question party leadership and policy

A third reason why Banerjee opts for celebrity candidates is that they are in no position to question the party's leadership and policies. Recently, a film was mysteriously stopped after its release and it was suspected that the ruling party was not okay with its so-called satirical message.

A number of actors and celebrities took to the streets to condemn the act. However, it is clearly understood that the Bengali civil society is not in a consensus over the alleged curb of artistic freedom.

Bengal to see 7-phase election when even disturbed J&K will have 5 phases: A sorry affair

But the random choice of celebrities as election candidates also has a disadvantage. Picking and putting an outsider at the top certainly discourages the foot soldiers of the party who work for the organisation round the year and expect a reward when the election approaches.

But seeing somebody apolitical grabbing the ticket and becoming a member of the parliament or the Assembly disappoints the hard-working soldiers of the party. In the long run, it only weakens the party's inner fabric and foundation.

Last but not the least is the celebrity candidate's depth of political knowledge. These candidates, after their win, are not known to devote enough time to parliamentary activities and problems of their own constituencies (exceptions are always there) and that doesn't add to the politicians' reliability in the long run.

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