Bollywood heartthrob Mithun Chakraborty, who had millions of fans swooning with his dance and action moves, on Sunday joined the BJP at Brigade Parade Ground ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mega rally.
Chakraborty was welcomed into the fold by BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and state president Dilip Ghosh, among others.
The National Award-winning actor, after being handed the saffron party flag by Ghosh, said he had always wanted to work for the underprivileged, and the saffron camp has given him a platform to fulfil his aspiration.
Chakraborty also said he had committed a mistake by joining the Trinamool Congress which had sent him to the Rajya Sabha in 2014.
Later while addressing the rally, the prime minister said, “Today we have with us Banglar chhele (son of Bengal), Mithun Chakraborty. His life and struggle is an inspiration for everyone.”
The actor also asserted that he was proud to be a Bengali. “I always wanted to do something big in life, but had never dreamt of being a part of such a huge rally which is to be addressed by world's most popular leader Narendra Modi. I wished to work for the poorer sections of our society, and that wish will now be fulfilled,” he said.
Amid huge cheers from supporters, Chakraborty, borrowing a dialogue from one of his films, said, 'Ami joldhorao noi, bele borao noi... ami ekta cobra, ek chobol-ei chobi (Don't mistake me for a harmless snake, I am a cobra, can kill people with one bite).' Vijayvargiya, who visited Chakraborty at his residence here on Saturday evening, had announced that he would be participating in the rally.
Last month, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat met the actor at his Mumbai bungalow over breakfast, setting off speculation that he might join the BJP.
Chakraborty, who earlier maintained close ties with Mamata Banerjee, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the TMC in 2014. He, however, quit the Upper House in 2016 citing health reasons, after his name surfaced in the Saradha ponzi scam.
The septuagenarian actor, a former Naxalite, sprang to stardom with his role as a tribal archer in Mrinal Sen's film 'Mrigayaa' in 1976 for which he won the National Film Award for the best actor.
An alumnus of Kolkata's prestigious Scottish Church College, which boasts of Subhash Chandra Bose, Nepal's first Prime Minister BP Koirala and Gopinath Bordoloi, the first chief minister of Assam, as its students, Chakraborty was seen as a politically conscious actor and often cast by Leftist movie directors.
His joining the Trinamool Congress, a left-of-center regional party, consequently did not come as a surprise. However, his move to join the BJP, a right of centre party is seen as a complete break from his past political views.
Chakraborty, however, defended his decision by stating he remained consistent in his desire to serve the poor.
While talking to reporters after the rally, Chakraborty said it was a mistake on his part to join the TMC. “I don't want to blame anyone today. It was a wrong decision on my part,” he said.
The ruling TMC and the opposition Left Front accused Chakraborty of being a 'political opportunist' who may again switch sides in future.
On this, the actor said, “Yes. Many people are saying that I was with the extreme Left and then with the TMC, and now with the BJP. But what are those who are calling me an opportunist? I have joined the BJP as I feel that this is the platform where I can serve people.”
He said he will start campaigning for the saffron party very soon.
To a question whether he would be the chief ministerial face of the BJP, Chakraborty said it is for the party to decide.
Chakraborty became a popular name in Bollywood and in foreign film markets like the former Soviet Union in the 1980s when he starred in a string of action movies, family dramas and musicals.
Among his box office hits were 'Disco Dancer', 'Kasam Paida Karne wale Ki' and Commando'.
His action movies won him a large following among youth growing up in the 1980s to 2000s.
Parallel to his Bollywood career, Chakraborty also became a star in the Bengali film industry with major productions such as 'Nadi Theke Sagare', 'Troyee', 'Kalankini Kankabati' and 'MLA Fatakeshto', making him a household name in Bengal.
On his joining the BJP, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “Big actors get associated with several production houses. Mithun Chakraborty has been doing the same thing - hopping from one party to another. He has moved from the Left to the Centre to the Right.”
As Chakraborty said he wants to work for people, he should say a few words against the fuel price hike, Ghosh added.
Senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said people would never trust 'turncoats' like Chakraborty and his joining the BJP will not have any impact on elections.
“We are being branded (by the TMC) as a party of outsiders. We hope after one of the biggest stars of Bengal joined us, we will no longer be termed so,” a BJP leader said.