Two Bhojpuri Stars, a Fashion Designer, a TMC Turncoat and a Doctor: BJP’s Asansol Options After Pawan Singh – News18

(From left) Akshara Singh, Agnimitra Paul, and Monalisa are among the frontrunners for the BJP ticket to contest Lok Sabha elections from Asansol in West Bengal.

Sources say Bengal BJP has suggested fashion designer Agnimitra Paul, former TMC leader Jitendra Tiwari and Dr Ajay Poddar as ticket probables from Asansol for Lok Sabha elections 2024. The Delhi leadership, however, is said to be keen on Monalisa, a Bengali star of Bhojpuri movies, and Akshara Singh, another Bhojpuri sensation who is one of the highest-paid actresses in the industry

After Bhojpuri star Pawan Singh was forced to withdraw his Lok Sabha election candidature from West Bengal’s Asansol due to his body of work that resulted in huge backlash from TMC leadership and BJP cadre alike, the question is who will replace him.

Sources in Bengal BJP told News18 that the state unit has suggested three names — a sitting MLA who was a fashion designer, a TMC turncoat who speaks fluent Hindi and a doctor-turned-politician. The latter two are also sitting MLAs of the BJP. However, party sources in the national capital say they are exploring two Bhojpuri sensations, particularly one of them who is a Bengali but has made her name in the Bhojpuri industry.

Bengal BJP’s Chosen Three for Asansol

The names suggested by the Bengal BJP are Agnimitra Paul, Jitendra Tiwari, and Dr Ajay Poddar.

Agnimitra Paul was born into a family of doctors and academicians but chose to make her name in fashion designing and has designed for Bollywood stars like Sridevi, Mithun Chakraborty, and Kay Kay Menon. Before the last Lok Sabha elections in 2019, she joined the BJP and has since been a common face in every women-led agitation of the BJP, including the recent ones on Sandeshkhali.

In the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, she was elected an MLA from Asansol Dakshin, which falls under the Lok Sabha seat of Asansol. Fielding a woman from Asansol would also be favourable to the BJP in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising the Sandeshkhali issue in election campaigns.

Jitendra Tiwari, who was part of the TMC earlier, joined the BJP in 2020. He is currently a sitting MLA who speaks fluent Hindi and helps the BJP’s cause in Asansol which has a substantial number of Hindi-speaking voters. What goes in his favour for the Asansol ticket is that he has been Mayor of Asansol and knows the city well.

Dr Ajay Poddar, an MBBS from Ranchi Medical College, joined the BJP in 2021 and was fielded in the Assembly election from the Kulti seat and won. The Kulti Assembly segment is part of the Asansol Lok Sabha seat.

Bhojpuri Sensations in the Mix

The BJP leadership in Delhi is exploring two Bhojpuri sensations, say sources. The saffron party is said to be particularly keen on ‘Monalisa’, a Bengali star of Bhojpuri movies. Her real name is Antara Biswas and she has made a name in Hindi television as well as has become a sensation in the Bhojpuri movie industry. She is fluent in Bengali, Hindi, and Bhojpuri alike, which is why the BJP is believed to be exploring options on whether she can be fielded from Asansol.

She also took part in Big Boss 10 as a contestant. She studied at Julien Day School in South Kolkata and graduated from Calcutta University, post which she dived into the world of stardom. ‘Monalisa’ is a sensation in the Bhojpuri industry herself and is also married to a Bhojpuri star.

If the BJP chooses to field her from Asansol, she ticks many boxes — a Bengali, hugely popular in the Bhojpuri industry and a woman candidate.

However, there is buzz that the BJP is also exploring the possibility of fielding Akshara Singh, another Bhojpuri sensation who is one of the highest-paid actresses in the industry. She is a bigger star than ‘Monalisa’, but what makes the BJP think twice, sources say, are two things. One, she doesn’t have Monalisa’s Bengali background which seems to have become important after Pawan Singh’s fiasco, and two, Akshara’s past association with Pawan. The two were in a relationship that ended on a sour note.

If at all the BJP chooses to field Akshara from Asansol, one can’t dismiss the possibility of an emotional Akshara Singh hitting out at Pawan Singh — a BJP pick in the first place — during the campaign.

Right now, it’s a fight between a fashion designer, a former Mayor, a doctor — all sitting MLAs now – and a couple of Bhojpuri sensations for battleground Asansol.