CPI(M) performs up its Maradona connection

Shubhadeep Choudhury

Tribune News Service

Kolkata, November 26

Successful Indian politicians normally do not like to be seen in the company of a cocaine user. However, Jyoti Basu had made an exception for Diego Maradona.

A visit to the venerable CPI(M) patriarch’s residence by Maradona was arranged when the football legend visited Kolkata in 2008.

“Jyotibabu” presented a photo album to Maradona containing pictures of the Argentine star’s good friend Fidel Castro in Kolkata taken during a visit by the Cuban revolutionary leader to the city in 1973. Later, while making an appearance at the Salt Lake Football Stadium here, Maradona happily displayed to the crowd a painting of Che Guevara presented to him by an artist in Kolkata.

The West Bengal unit of CPI(M) on Tuesday posted on social media Maradona’s photo with late Jyoti Basu with the caption “the prince of football with the legendary mass leader”.

“He had empathy for people’s struggles”, was inscribed on another social media post by the Bengal unit of CPI(M).

Maradona visited Kolkata twice. During his first visit in 2008, the CPI(M)-led Left Front government was power in the state. This was when he met Jyoti Basu.

The hero of the Argentinian victory in the 1986 football world cup came to Kolkata a second time in 2017. This time his host was Trinamool Congress minister Sujit Bose. During his second visit to the city Maradona unveiled a 12-feet bronze statue of himself in Lake Town.

Maradona and Saumitra Chatterjee were like chalk and cheese. The former was a sportsman and the latter an actor. The former was a character off the field also. The latter seldom got himself entangled in any controversy. Both are immensely popular in Bengal with the Argentine football maestro in all likelihood having a wider fan base among the Bengalis than the thespian.

After Saumitra’s recent death also, the Leftists resorted to sneakily playing up the actor’s alleged Left-wing sympathies. This was intended to be a counterweight to Mamata Banerjee who landed up in the hospital after Saumitra’s death and remained an overarching presence in organising the actor’s last journey.

It is not immediately known why Mamata failed to get herself photographed with Maradona when he visited Kolkata three years back. More than 12 hours have passed since the news about Maradona’s death broke but Mamata has not posted anything on social media also on the legend’s passing away.

The silence, despite the footballer’s huge popularity in her state, is found surprising by all those who closely follow Banerjee and the politics of West Bengal.

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