Dubai: Mithun Chakraborty, Bollywood actor and former Trinamool Congress (TMC) member of parliament from the Rajya Sabha (Upper House), joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at a massive public rally in Kolkata today, which was addressed by Prime Minister and BJP stalwart Narendra Modi. Mithun welcomed Modi, offering him the party's saffron sash, upon the prime minister's arrival on the podium.
West Bengal will be having an eight-phase election to its state assembly, starting on March 27 and concluding on April 29. results will be declared on May 2.
Attending the Modi rally at the iconic Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata today, Mithun formally accepted the saffron sash from Kailash Vijayvargiya, the national general secretary of BJP.
Addressing the rally just ahead of Modi's arrival at the Brigade Parade Ground, Mithun said: "It's been a dream-come-true for me to be present on this podium today with the BJP top-brass and Prime Minister Modi."
Modi addressed the rally, saying: “I have come here today to convince the people of Bengal about the BJP’s resolve to build a new and resurgent Bengal.” He further said that it is BJP that will bring about a "real change" in Bengal. He also said: "I'm happy that today, Bengal's son-of-the-soil Mithun Chakraborty is also with us."
Right from the alleged issue of nepotism surrounding Mamata's nephew and TMC member of parliament Abhishek Banerjee to taking a swipe at the Bengal CM's perceived dalliance with tokenism at trying to ride an e-scooter recently, Modi maintained an aggressive pitch all through his more than an hour-long speech at Brigade Parade Ground.
While Modi’s speech was replete with attacks on the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government in Bengal for what he claimed to be an abject failure of governance, the prime minister also took potshots at the Left-Congress electoral alliance in the state, terming it an “opportunistic” coming together of ideologically disparate elements.
Even as Modi was busy taking jibes at Mamata in the heart of Kolkata, the Bengal chief minister was leading a road show in Siliguri, North Bengal, protesting the steep hike in the prices of petroleum products across the country.
Speaking at the rally in Brigade Parade Ground, Mithun added: "When I started my career as an actor in Kolkata, we needed to mention 'behind Jora Bagan Police Station' on all postal correspondences. Otherwise, those mails would have never reached us. It was such a nondescript neighbourhood. But even in those days, I had a dream -- to do something for this state and its people. It is that same urge that has brought me to this podium today. And I give you my word -- I won't run away."
Interestingly, Mithun was known to have had a very cordial relationship with the Jyoti Basu-led Left Front government in Bengal in the late 1980s and until about 2008. Mithun's personal equations with former sports minister of Bengal, late Subhash Chakraborty, was well-known and during those days, the Bollywood actor from Kolkata was seen attending ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) rallies and political programmes in Bengal on several occasions.
Later, however, his equations with the CPI(M) turned cold and he started cosying up to the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal. In 2014, Mithun was nominated as the Mamata-led TMC's candidate for the Rajya Sabha. However, his relationship with Mamata and TMC turned sour once his name cropped up in the Sharadha chit fund scam in Bengal. Following an inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Mithun publicly returned Rs11,988,560 (Dh604,872) that was paid to him as part of professional fees for hosting a television reality show for the Sharadha Group. Later, Mithun had reportedly rued to his inner circle that though he tried his best to come clean in the Sharadha controversy and had even obtained a clean chit from ED, his party TMC and its supremo Mamata were not receptive and cooperative enough in helping him clear his name and come out clean.
Mithun's relationship with TMC touched a nadir in 2016, when he finally resigned from his Rajya Sabha membership.
Since then, he has been in a political exile of sorts and living away from the limelight. By joining the BJP in a public rally in Kolkata on Sunday, and that too in the presence of Modi, Mithun effectively launched his second stint in active politics.