Samir Aich hopes to paint politics in a righteous hue (Election Special)
As a painter he is known for being unconventional, always walking the untravelled path. But having taken the political plunge, Samir Aich wants to walk the righteous way, hoping to restore the fast waning faith of the common man in politics and politicians.
Given the Congress ticket to contest the Lok Sabha poll from Jadavpur in West Bengal, the acclaimed painter refuses to call himself a novice in the field.
As a social activist, Aich has lent his voice to many a protest and asserts he was always a politician - but without the definitive colours of a party. "Unfortunately, politicians are now mostly characterised as power hungry people who make tall promises only to turn their backs once they come to power. People are fast losing faith in politics, in our leaders," Aich told IANS.
A graduate from the city's Government College of Art & Craft, Aich is one of the most respected contemporary artists - equally adept at oil on canvas and mixed media - famous for his semi-abstract figurative themes and tireless experimenting.
But in politics, he is preparing to walk the tested path.
"If elected, my job will be to work for the people, to protest against injustice; here you do not experiment. For me, politics is about repaying people's faith.
"I want to paint politics in colours which people want, the colours which people aspire for. Politics now has too many fake and unwanted colours," said Aich, who has held numerous solo and group exhibitions across India and abroad.
Unwilling to call the Congress a sinking ship, Aich stoically defends his party - mired in allegations of scams and battling anti-incumbency.
"Most of them continue to be mere allegations; besides, the party has punished the guilty including its own men. There might be some negative sentiments, but underestimating the country's oldest political party is not wise," the 58-year old says.
In the fray for a seat where the Congress has been weak since the Trinamool's formation in 1998, Aich calls himself David, aspiring to slay the Goliath - his "more illustrious rivals" in the constituency that comprises both urban, semi urban and rural segments stretching from Southern outskirts of Kolkata to the South 24 Parganas district.
Aich is pitted against former MP CPI-M's Sujan Chakraborty, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grand nephew and Harvard University professor Sugato Bose of the Trinamool Congress and BJP's Swarup Prashad Ghosh.
One of the prominent faces from civil society which lent support to the Mamata Banerjee-led anti-farmland acquisition movements during the erstwhile Left Front regime, Aich continued to defend the Trinamool in TV debates and seminars after it came to power in 2011.
Banerjee, in turn, entrusted him with a number of official responsibilities including the chairmanship of the Charukala Parishad (Council for Fine Arts).
But the bonhomie ended early last year, when Banerjee attacked him from a public rally after he participated in a protest march over a rape. Aich severed all ties and stepped down from the governmental responsibilities.
However, he refuses to accept he was "pro-Trinamool".
"I have always opposed whatever is unjust. When I raised my voice against the Left, I was dubbed a Trinamooli (pro-Trinamool), and now when I criticise the current regime's insensitivity towards crime against women, I'm being called a Maoist. I never had any political affiliation," says Aich.
Now a staunch critic of the Banerjee regime, Aich says his main fight is against the Trinamool.
"Rape, anarchy, molestation, corruption, scams define the Trinamool regime. While it took 34 years of Left Front rule for the people to seek a change , the present government has already done enough to make the common man clamour for another parivartan (change)," says Aich.
Gearing up for the polls, Aich is hoping to cash in on the experience and expertise of two rebel leaders - expelled CPI-M legislator Abdur Rezzak Mollah and Trinamool dissenter Kabir Suman - who currently holds the Jadavpur seat.
"Both are my friends and command considerable influence here. I am confident they will share their experience and guide me in my fight," said Aich who met Mollah days before his candidature was announced.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 25-03-2014)