Bengal BJP’s New Face

Bengal BJP’s New Face

by Jayant Chowdhury - Sunday, September 13, 2015 04:30 PM IST
Bengal BJP’s New Face

BJP workers and supporters in West Bengal want Roopa Ganguly, the actor who joined the party earlier this year, to play a bigger role, even become the state unit’s chief. Can Ganguly prove to be the change agent the party so badly needs in Bengal?

There’s a fresh churning in the BJP’s Bengal unit, and it involves Roopa Ganguly, the actor who many would remember had played Draupadi in the television series Mahabharata back in the late 1980s. The party workers see the actor, who joined the party earlier this year, as a strong rival to the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee.

Ganguly, 48, presents a refreshing change from the lacklustre and slothful state party leadership, especially Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha. Sinha can be held singularly responsible for running the party into the ground after its encouraging show in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when it garnered 17 percent of the votes, up from 4 percent in the 2011 Assembly polls.

But the BJP in Bengal, thanks largely due to Sinha, who not only lacks charisma but also leadership skills, suffered a huge setback in the polls to civic bodies across the state a few months ago.

Bengal BJP’s New Face

Sinha will cease to be the president from next month. He has already served two terms and is not eligible to contest in the organizational polls slated for next month. The BJP’s Bengal minder, Kailash Vijayvargiya, has clearly stated that a month from now, the BJP in Bengal will get a new chief. This has enthused party workers and supporters who are hopeful that Ganguly would be given a bigger role in the party.

Ganguly is one of the handful of recognizable faces in the state BJP. And over the past few months, she has amply demonstrated her connect with the masses. Be it hitting the streets to protest various acts of omission and commission of the Mamata Banerjee government or to distribute relief to flood-affected people, Ganguly has been actively involved in various issues.

This, as opposed to the current party-state leadership, which does little more than hold press conferences and issue press statements from the comfort of the party office.

“Initially, people had thought I will be a glam quotient in the BJP, but I have joined politics not to make a career out of it, but to improve the lot of the people of Bengal,” says Ganguly.

Her entry into politics reflects her career as an actor. Growing up in a joint family in Kolkata, Ganguly recollects she never dreamed of becoming an actor. “I always wanted to be an architect. I fulfil that dream of mine today by doing up the interiors of my house and those of my friends,” she says. “I never knew how to act, I had never participated even in a play in school. But once I found myself in front of the camera, I gave it all that I had.”

Similarly, she was never attracted towards politics. “There were no discussions about politics at home and I never participated in even student politics. I was a front-bencher and a good student. I started getting offers from political parties to join them since 1993. Some senior BJP leaders had been asking me to join the party for a few years now. I ultimately made up my mind and prior to my joining the party on January 4 this year, I had been preparing my BJP workers and supporters in West Bengal. After all, I also had to fulfil all my film commitments before taking this step.”

Bengal BJP’s New Face

Ganguly says that had she not belonged to Bengal, she would never have joined politics. “I grew up in a middle-class home full of doctors and engineers. Our lifestyle was simple, but we had enough of everything. But the poverty of a vast majority of people in Bengal, and many who do not have enough, always troubled me. And then there has been misrule and bad governance ever since the CPM came to power. The CPM never practiced what it preached and the Left rule benefitted only a few. People had high hopes about Mamata Banerjee, but she has let the state down badly. Thus, I felt compelled to join politics and become a change agent. BJP is the only hope for Bengal now.”

She demonstrated she was no pushover while campaigning for the municipal polls in April this year. One incident catapulted her into the limelight. On the evening of April 14, she went to address a small street corner meeting in South Kolkata, barely 400 metres from Mamata Banerjee’s residence and 300 metres from a police station. Once she reached the spot where her party workers had erected a small stage, a posse of Trinamool hoodlums arrived and started tearing down BJP banners and flags that had been put up on the stage.

Ganguly rushed on to the stage and not only prevented the Trinamool goons from doing any more damage but also snatched away her party flags that they had taken. When the thugs turned on her, she stood her ground even though she was pushed and verbally abused.

The windscreen of her SUV was smashed and people trying to record the incident, including some reporters, were assaulted. The police arrived soon and defused the situation.

She not only displayed her spunk, but also her leadership qualities a little while later when, hearing of the attack on her, a large number of agitated party workers arrived on bikes and wanted to gherao the police station. “I went to them, I held their hands and told them that the cops saved me and instead of laying siege on the thana, they should thank the policemen. They did exactly that”.

Bengal BJP’s New Face

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of our magazine. Get a copy of the Swarajya magazine delivered to your home every month – 12 issues for just ₹1500. Buy Now!

Since then, Ganguly has been attacked many times by Trinamool cadres, but she has never capitulated. Instead, she has only stepped up her public engagements and is one of the few BJP leaders in Bengal who is seen as not only having the courage to take on the ruling establishment, but also one who takes up issues concerning the people.

Unknown to many, Ganguly has been involved in a lot of social work right from her early days as an actor. She had been funding the education of many children from poor families. Till very recently, two dozen kids from broken families used to stay at her house on the outskirts of Kolkata.

Over the last three years, she has been working very actively with an NGO that has a tie-up with John Hopkins University to provide world class medical services to the poor in the Sunderbans and some other areas of the state. “I am passionate about this work,” she says.

Ganguly’s show of courage on many occasions invites comparisons with Mamata Banerjee, who also made a name for herself by taking on the might of the then ruling CPM. But she is not comfortable with this comparison. “I don’t like being compared to a person like Mamata,” she says. And she is right. Ganguly is not mercurial, volatile and impulsive like West Bengal’s chief minister.

Bengal BJP’s New Face

Indian movie star Rupa Ganguly (L) speaks to a group of children suffering from thalassaemia. (AFP)

The actor, who lists driving, shooting and horse riding among her hobbies, abhors the politics of violence and hooliganism that Bengal has become infamous for. Roopa is a quintessential “bhadramohila”, a term that no one in Bengal would use to describe Mamata. Thus, comparing Roopa to Mamata is grossly unfair.

But then, Roopa has many of Mamata’s qualities like the former’s courage and political instincts. She seems to have it in her to take her party’s battle with Mamata to the streets, but in a dignified and restrained manner.

She may, thus, be seen as a vast improvement on Mamata.

That’s why BJP workers and supporters in Bengal want her to play a bigger role in steering the state unit. It is now up to the party’s central leadership to decide what would strengthen the party in Bengal. Can a courageous greenhorn revive its fortunes?

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of our magazine. 

Jayant Chowdhury is an avid observer of and commentator on politics and society in Bengal and eastern, including north-eastern, India.
Join our Telegram channel - no spam or links, only crisp analysis.
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.