KKR felicitation a mix of politics, sports and entertainment

Kolkata, June (IANS) It is time for out-of-the-box thinking, and in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal it is about mixing politics, sports and entertainment.

All the three elements were at play May 29 during the victory parade and felicitation of the Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team after it won the Indian Premier League title for the first time.

Coincidentally, the team's co-owner Shah Rukh Khan also happens to be the state's brand ambassador.

The rousing reception given to cricket team by the Banerjee-led state government at the Eden Gardens stadium a day after it beat Chennai Super Kings in the IPL final saw a star-studded gathering, which included Bengali film stars and popular singers.

Nearly 150,000 people cheered the team on the Kolkata's roads and at the stadium. The celebrations brought the city to a standstill - and drew criticism too.

The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said that Banerjee's Trinamool Congress was carrying out a political campaign in the name of felicitating the cricket team.

The Congress party, which is a part of the state government, asked why such a huge reception was given to a private corporate team when the state was undergoing a financial crisis.

Entrepreneurs and economists termed the function a colossal loss of man-hours and productivity as office-goers either took time off to celebrate or could not go to work because of road restrictions and traffic snarls.

But for Banerjee, the team's win could not have come at a more opportune time.

Her party, which came to power after ousting the CPI-M-led Left Front last May, has been celebrating a year in power and her ministers lost no time in tom-tomming the team's success as an example of the 'poriborton' (change) ushered in by the new government.

It was a double delight for Banerjee who had recently appointed Shah Rukh as the brand ambassador of West Bengal.

She also wanted to be a part of the celebrations, as part of her party's strategy to use every opportunity to touch people's heart.

So, the mix of politics and sports and entertainment in the function was hard to miss.

The six-km roadshow, in which the champion cricket players received adulation from at least 50,000 fans who lined the streets of south and central Kolkata, was impressive.

The parade started from Hazra Crossing near the chief minister's Harish Chatterjee Street residence, and covered her Bhowanipore assembly constituency before it ended near the historic Victoria Memorial.

Hazra Crossing, where Banerjee was brutally beaten up during the Left Front government many years ago, occupies a special position in her political career.

Even the recent rally she led protesting the steep petrol price hike had ended at Hazra.

And for the stadium function too, the chief minister ushered in some 'poriborton'.

Instead of inviting intellectuals to the the Eden Gardens, she called filmstars and popular Bangla bands and singers.

While bands such as Dohar, Chandrabindu and Bhoomi belted out popular songs, entertaining the 70,000-odd gathering, actors Jeet, Dev and Soham danced with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Shah Rukh and Banerjee hogged the limelight, and later, the chief minister criticised those who had criticised the ceremony.

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