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Contrasting campaign styles in Bengal

Prominent candidates try to strike personal rapport with voters through informal letters.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON APR 14, 2004 05:56 PM IST

While BJP rekindles the Ram mandir issue, a former Union minister delivers dialogues from a drama in which he plays Sree Ramakrishna. Prominent candidates try to strike personal rapport with voters through informal letters.

A former Miss India and a leading Bollywood actress of yesteryears hit the streets, presenting a windfall for lensmen.

A Marxist party gives an indication of the changing times as its leaders try to woo a predominant business community by attending a dinner party at a posh joint.

These are kaleidoscopic snippets from the campaign beat in West Bengal as political parties pull out all stops to win over the electorate for the coming Lok Sabha polls in the state on May 10.

A cocktail of novel personal campaigns, display of giant cutouts of leaders a la south India, a dash of filmi glamour and generous use of all forms of media from electronic to folk have added new dimension to electioneering in the state this time.

Normally accustomed to seeing candidates addressing rallies and meetings or visiting localities to canvass for votes, people of Dum Dum constituency were taken by surprise when they received post cards signed by CPI (M) candidate Amitava Nandy asking them personally to attend his programmes.

"Such post cards were sent to all the voters," said a party functionary. 

The party's candidate from Kolkata south Rabin Deb, who is fighting a difficult battle against Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, has also printed personal letters for distribution to voters. The missives, urging the people to support Deb, seek to touch a personal chord with the public through emotional style.

But for Trinamool nominee and former Union minister Ajit Panja the way to the voters heart is through histrionics.

The veteran barrister-turned politician, who has won the Kolkata north east seat six times in a row, regales the audience at his meetings by delivering dialogues from the drama Nati Binodini, in which his portrayal of Sree Ramakrishna has been well received by the public for the last few years.

Panja, known for his electoral skills, has also been distributing items of necessity like match boxes containing the symbol of his party among voters.

The Congress, on the other hand, has been claiming a lot of media space by fielding Bollywood heroine Mousumi Chatterjee and former Miss India Nafisa Ali as its candidates from the Kolkata north east and Kolkata south respectively.

Nafisa, a former national swimming champion, actress turned social activist  has become the darling of lensmen with her photogenic face popping up daily in newspapers with her ability to strike the right poses.

While one day she is seen enjoying a plebian tram ride, the other day she is pictured reaching out to strangers and trying to win them over with her radiant smile.

Chatterjee, though a late entrant into the fray, is hoping to cash in on the sentiments of the people who remember her for her excellent performance in the popular Bengali movie Balika Bodhu before she ventured out to Mumbai.

She has been going from door to door, telling people "I am one of you. I am from this city. And I'll give up acting and devote full time to serve you if you elect me."

The Nationalist Trinamool Congress, dependent entirely on the crowd-pulling ability of Mamata Banerjee-- who has been touring the districts to hold rallies-- has put up giant cutouts of their leader at several intersections of the city.

Cutouts of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and city mayor Subrata Mukherjee, Trinamool Congress contender from Kolkata north west, have also sprung up, bringing to West Bengal a canvassing mode so far associated with south Indian states.

But that elections can make even the most dogmatic of parties pragmatic, was ably illustrated when prominent leader of the state's ruling Left Front major CPI (M) attended a dinner hosted by the Rajasthani samaj at Salt Lake to attract the predominantly business community.

The CPI(M) has also roped in veteran Bengali filmmaker Tarun Majumdar to produce a docu-feature 'Rangamatir Pathe' (in the land of red earth) highlighting the development in the state during the 26 years of front rule.

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