They have two things in common. Both of them love to make people laugh. While Prabir Ghosal, a veteran journalist, was popular among his colleagues for this quality, Kanchan Mullick is so popular comedian of Bengali films that he often outshines the ‘hero’.
The second thing common in them is that both are sorts of ‘turncoats’. As a journalist, Prabir Ghosal was close to Mamata Banerjee, and after retirement, he joined the TMC. In 2016, he contested from the Uttarpara constituency as a TMC candidate and won.
But he left the party to join the BJP just a couple of months ago. This time he is contesting from the same constituency as the BJP candidate. Kanchan Mullick however was not in any part earlier, but was known as a hardcore leftist. He joined the TMC recently to contest from Uttarpara.
Uttarpara is more or less an urban constituency in Hooghly district, and not far off from Kolkata. But the people rue the fact that they still do not have a high-class modern hospital in the town, and have to go to Kolkata for the facilities. Many other such problems typical of a distant suburban area haunt them. They are not too happy with whatever has been done in the last five years. But then who will carry the baggage of the last five years: Kanchan or Prabir?
The anti-incumbency factor is going in favour of the BJP elsewhere. But the equation is not that easy in Uttarpara, as the party’s candidate is last five years’ MLA. “If they had given any other candidate, I would have said they have already won,” said a local CPI(M) leader off the record. “But now things have become uncertain.” However Prabir Ghosal claims he was not allowed to work properly by the ‘corrupt’ rival faction of the TMC, and that is why he has joined the BJP. He is trying hard to convince the voters that for a new beginning they should vote for the BJP.
Kanchan Mullick has no such political baggage. Perhaps that is why the TMC has fielded him, hoping anti-incumbency will not touch their candidate. And Kanchan, or the political campaigner on his side, is trying their best to blame Prabir for the failure of the last five years.
But Kanchan has his baggage too. People expect humour and laughter from him, not political speech. They want to see him as ‘Pishi’ (aunt)’, a funny character that Kanchan had assumed in a popular TV show ‘Didi number one’. Perhaps it tires him out at times, but he faces it with a smile. After all, his pamphlet too promises to present the people a life bereft of sorrows and full of laughter.
The TMC insiders concede the fight is tough this time. If the fifty-year-old comedian can sail through the anti-incumbency by promising the people a better life, it will be quite a story.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)