Known for her rendition of ‘Draupadi’ in BR Chopra’s hit television series Mahabharat, Roopa Ganguly- a versatile actress and a playback singer was nominated as Rajya Sabha MP by the Bharatiya Janata Party in October 2016.
Recipient of several awards including a National Award and two BFJA Awards, Ganguly served as the President of BJP Mahila Morcha in West Bengal. In 2016 state polls, she lost from Howrah North to TMC counterpart and cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla. And later she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in place of cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Daughter of partition survivors, Roopa termed the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and 'Farm Bill' as historic for the lakhs of refugees like her and farmers in India. Speaking to News18.com– Ganguly shares her journey as an actress, a politician, and as a refugee. Here a few excerpts from the conversation:
West Bengal will vote in 2021. Do you think that CAA is going to be a concern for the BJP in the upcoming elections?
The problem is when they (Congress, TMC) claim themselves as Hindus, no one says anything. But when we (BJP) say that we are Hindus, they brand us as ‘fundamentalists’. This hurts me a lot. I would like to question those who are opposing CAA - do they really understand how it feels to run away from home leaving every single thing you have. As far as CAA’s impact in Bengal is concerned, I think the answer lies in- when we secured 18 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls. People want jobs and security and they know it is the BJP government that can provide them a dignified life. CAA is for those who entered India illegally with dirty intentions. We all know about the arrests made by the NIA in Bengal. It is a dangerous sign as far as our internal security is concerned. CAA will be a non-issue and we are certainly going to form the next government in Bengal.
Do you think the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act in the parliament has fuelled fear among the Muslim community especially those who are living in Kolkata?
Why Muslims should fear CAA? You tell me a single reason behind their fear. The narrative is clear- those who came here illegally, they have to go back. It is as simple as that. Those who are fulfilling the criteria of CAA no need to worry. They can live happily here. Making a list of minorities was felt necessary because it is the Muslims who entered illegally in large numbers in India. Especially, in the last eight years a large number of Muslims entered India illegally and most of them settled in Bengal. Through this list, it will be easier to scan who are legal and who are illegal migrants. I think CAA is a clear and loud message to illegal migrants to go back to their countries before they could be penalized as per law here in India. Those who are thinking that we are intentionally trying to harass the Muslims should get it clear that we are not against any community. We are not pushing back people in the name of their religion. It’s a misleading campaign of the opposition parties.
Do you think BJP will come to power in 2021 in West Bengal and your take on TMC chief Mamata Banerjee? Being the only woman Chief Minister in India, do you think she is doing a great job?
Certainly, we are going to form the next government in 2021 in Bengal, there is no doubt about this. People in Bengal showed immense faith in us and I am sure they will vote BJP to power against the misrule of the TMC government. I joined politics only because of the misrule of TMC. From 2011 to 2013, I started following the TMC and found that they are not good for Bengal's development. TMC's acts are against the culture of Bengal. They don't believe in democracy and atrocities on Oppositions in Bengal are at peak. You will be beaten like anything in Bengal if you raise your voice against TMC. Is it democracy? So many BJP workers were killed, arrested, and forced to vacate their houses out of fear. I don’t think people voted for this TMC in Bengal. No vision, no jobs, no industries, there is nothing in Bengal. We are facing a difficult time in fighting with the TMC because she is using the administration against us. As far as Mamata Banerjee is concerned, I don't have anything personal about her. Somehow, she had a great mandate but she could have done it well, she has failed to prove herself as a good leader for the state.
Once a part of the Mumbai Film Industry, what is your take on the whole controversies surrounding Sushant Singh Rajput and NCB's role in probing the 'drugs link' of several well-known celebrities?
I suspect that Sushant Singh Rajput was killed and the suicide theory is just to suppress the facts. As far as 'drug links' are concerned in Bollywood, I think NCB is doing a great job and it’s high time to cleanse the industry. It is very disheartening the way the Mumbai Film industry is functioning nowadays. There is no respect for artists. The industry is killing people, making them drug addicts, and insulting women. One should also look into the Hawala racket in the industry. Once this Mumbai Film industry was our proud and people used to get influenced by it. Now people are learning bad things from Bollywood. We all saw how Bihar police were harassed by their counterpart in Mumbai - simply because law and order is a state subject. I think there should be some amendment in our Constitution to give more power to the Centre in maintaining law and order in states as well.
Do you think Mukul Roy's elevation in the BJP as vice president is certainly going to be a game changer considering the Assembly Polls in Bengal?
Do you have any doubt? A few years back when Mukul Roy was in the TMC, he called me up and wished me for joining the BJP. Then, he told me, if at all if he gets an opportunity (to join BJP) to do something good and then later I told him, come and join BJP and work under the guidance of Modi ji I think Mukul Roy will certainly work hard to steer the party forward and we all together are going to achieve fruitful results in 2021. I have a lot of well-wishers in the TMC and I have many friends who are close to Mamata Banerjee. My family members voted for her but as far as I am concerned I want to see a BJP government in Bengal in 2021. After that, I will quit politics.
In some of your social media posts after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, you mentioned how you and your family suffered a lot during the partition. Could you tell us more about that and your take on CAB and 'Farm Bills'?
Oh, that was a scary night. During partition, there was a fear among the Hindus as most of them suffered. They were forced to leave their house in one cloth, people were left with no other options but to flee, leaving your home, family members, everything behind. It led to deep mental trauma. Since partition, lakhs of refugees like us who fled Bangladesh were living in distress as they lost all hope to get their own identity. People like us waited for more than 70 years to get our own identity. No political parties stood for us. It was a historic day for us when the CAA was passed in the parliament under the leadership of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. I am a refugee and only those who suffered during those days can feel the importance of CAA. As far as Farm Bills are concerned, I think this is a historic move and it is going to benefit farmers across the country. There are people who are unnecessary trying to create controversy but the ground realities are now farmers will have their say in their produce rather than feeling helpless before the touts.
Your family is among lakhs of refugees who came to Bengal but later your father went back to Bangladesh after the partition. Your mother used to visit Kolkata to meet you in a girl's hostel. Why did your father go back to Bangladesh and why did he request you not to change his Bangladeshi passport even after the partition?
Honestly, speaking I became emotional when the bill was passed in the parliament. It was a much-needed justice for us. My father went back to Bangladesh because he was into the Jute trade. He was a businessman. He needs to feed us and since everything was in Bangladesh, he decided to go back to look after the business. Unfortunately, his partner cheated on him and later he started working as an employee in his own factory. When I grew up, I realized that apart from the trade he was associated with, he was extremely emotional about his Narayangunj house in Bangladesh. On one side his attachment towards his village in Bangladesh and on the other side continuous attack on him (by the Muslims) forced him to learn the Quran. Whenever he was attacked, he used to recite lines of the Quran for his safety. It was a difficult time for people like us. It's only those who passed through the torture will be able to understand the importance of this Bill. When I started my career in TV serials, I bought a flat in Kolkata in my mother’s name and made my father the nominee. Then, I forced him to come back to Kolkata. He came here but he was ailing and passed away in February 2014. He requested me not to change my Bangladeshi passport.
After passing through a difficult time during partition, especially staying away from parents in Kolkata at a young age, how did you land in the acting profession?
In 1986, I got my first national break in the Hindi TV series ‘Ganadevta’. This gave me a new identity and I was searched by BR Chopra’s team for the ‘Draupadi’ role in Mahabharat mega serial. I was very happy with my work. There was no reason for me to join politics. But I told you why I entered politics. You must be surprised to know that I left 12 big projects before I joined the BJP. This needs a lot of courage. When I joined politics, I completely left my acting career because I feel that one cannot be honest with both areas at one time. Either you can do politics or you can do acting.
You are planning to quit politics in 2022. Why? What is your future plan?
As far as my future plans are concerned, I am going to quit politics in 2022 after BJP will form the government in Bengal in 2021. That is my dream to see BJP in power in Bengal. I am not the kind of person who is hungry for posts or chairs. Everywhere in the world, people who are from different fraternities come to serve people for some time and go back to their respective fields. I don't have any political ambitions. My dream is only to see the BJP government in Bengal. I have done enough in my life. After retiring from politics, I have decided to devote myself to social work, singing, farming, and writing books.