Indian Idol: Prashant gets 10 lakh SMSs

13 Sep 2007, 0234 hrs IST,Anand Soondas,TNN
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Enthusiasm has gripped lakhs from Shillong and Darjeeling to get Amit Paul or Prashant Tamang voted as India’s next singing sensation.

Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling was quoted in Himalaya Darpan, a local daily, on Tuesday as saying he’ll do “much more than any government” to see Tamang, a fellow Nepali, beat the competition. Immediately after the CM’s announcement, Anant Rai, a businessman in Gangtok, announced he’ll give Rs 1 crore to fund the Darjeeling singer’s campaign. Nearly 10,000 students came out in a raucous procession in neighbouring Kurseong on Wednesday chanting “win-Prashant” slogans.

Asked if cadres of Gorkha National Liberation Front and sundry other outfits which fought a bitter war in the 80s against the West Bengal government for Gorkhaland are putting pressure, as alleged by some, on residents to support Prashant, the secretary of the singer’s fan club in Kurseong, Pradip Pradhan, said, “Everyone is doing it on their own. The allegations are baseless. Instead, we hear from outsiders settled in Meghalaya that they are being threatened with expulsion if they don’t vote for Amit.”

But Pradhan agreed that the Darjeeling hills are afire. ” Pahad ma aago laage ko cha (The mountains are raging),” he said from Kurseong, the small town that quietly nestled between Siliguri and Darjeeling until Prashant, a village boy from Tung Sung tea estate who’s now a constable in the Calcutta Police, reached the final of the show. Now the place, known for little more than the mushroom-like sprouting of its English schools, is throbbing with feverish anticipation and tension.

Ten lakh SMSs in support of the local singer, for about Rs 30 lakh, have gone into the “mission”, Pradhan added. “Each house, each family is visited for votes,” he said, “and each contributes, anything between Rs 100 to Rs 1,000. The rich are giving more though we are a poor people.”

The Amit Paul fever in India’s north-eastern states is equally scalding. Even as Lapang reminded the singer of the laurels Kapil Dev brought to India and said he had similar expectations, Purno Sangma, the former Lok Sabha Speaker, said, “Amit has already created history. He is the pride of Meghalaya and the whole of Northeast. We are proud of him and I personally appeal to all citizens of Meghalaya and Northeast to vote for Amit generously and make him the next Indian Idol.”

Everybody, regardless of political affinity, is pitching in. Laban MLA Jopsimon Phanbuh has donated three PCOs for the purpose of free voting. Meghalaya urban affairs minister Paul Lyngdoh has given out three, Mawlai MLA PT Sawkmie 20 and Pynthorumkhrah MLA AL Hek five.

In all this frenzy, what binds the people of the two regions in their latest obsession to “win” is the distinct awareness of being an alien in their own country. Debojit Saha, a former Voice of India winner from Assam, summed up the sentiment when he said, “Amit Paul and I are both from the Northeast, a region hardly known to the outside world. We know what hurdles we have crossed to reach our desired destinations.”

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