The 29-year-old Bengali actor is contesting against Sayantan Basu of BJP and Quazi Abdur Rahim of Congress.
Though this is Jahan’s first brush with politics, her constituency has been a TMC stronghold for the past few years. The sitting MP for Basirhat is Idris Ali from TMC, known to be a party strongman.
Though Jahan was expected to win, some Trinamool workers told HuffPost India prior to the polls that BJP has made some inroads especially with Hindu voters in the area, though Muslims are in a majority in the constituency.
The announcement of Jahan’s candidature was met with surprise and the Opposition immediately took to ridiculing her. A BJP IT cell worker was also arrested for making an obscene caricature of her and circulating it on social media.
In an interview with HuffPost India, Jahan, however, said she was deeply familiar with her constituency and will be using her popularity to bridge the differences between Hindus and Muslims in her constituency. Baduria in Basirhat witnessed violent communal clashes in 2017 when a Hindu teenager posted an ‘obscene’ meme about the Prophet on Facebook. The boy was arrested by angry Muslim mobs set vehicles on fire and shops owned by Hindus were vandalised. Though community leaders and clerics appealed for peace, the mob went on a rampage.
Idris Ali, a long-time Trinamool Congress leader with a considerable following, is the MP from the constituency. Ali had led protests against Taslima Nasreen years ago over her book and is mostly considered as an orthodox leader. Owing to that image, perhaps, Banerjee took the decision of keeping Ali in the shadows and nominating Jahan who is popular with both Hindus and Muslims thanks to her films.
Jahan told HuffPost India that she had often performed at shows in Basirhat and hence, is not only familiar with the area but is also popular with the residents. “One, during the show season I was invited more than once to perform,” she said, explaining shows in the same area don’t usually repeat actors in one season.
“I am kind of the common factor between two and would not let communal forces spoil that and create a stir,” she said.
BJP’s candidate Sayantan Basu, on the other hand, was served a showcause notice by the Election Commission for allegedly threatening violence. In a public meeting, Basu said that if anyone tried to stop people from reaching booths and voting BJP would instruct Central forces to shoot disruptors in their chest.