By Sunil Dang
As we are nearly seven-eight months away from the next general elections, all political parties are gearing up to fancy their chances of being in the next government. The opposition parties are still jittery as they are unable to break the ‘who will be the PM’ jinx. However, ruling BJP had started working towards the general elections a year in advance. Their poster boy Narendra Modi has already held two massive rallies in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — states which will be important for both opposition and BJP, given that, BJP is hoping to pare its losses in central and western states from here while the opposition would love to keep BJP at the periphery of Bengal politics.
Whatever be the outcome of their efforts, one thing is for sure that this time too, both ruling and the opposition camps are busy luring Bollywood icons. If reports and my talks with various party high commands are to be believed, we can expect around 15-20 Bollywood icons namely Akshay Kumar or Dimple Kapadia, Salman Khan or Salim Khan, Anupam Kher, Nana Patekar and Madhuri Dixit in 2019 poll fray. The BJP began luring Bollywood icons under its ‘Sampark Abhiya’ in which the ‘party with difference’ assigned all its leaders to meet five celebrities to let them know about the achievements of the Modi government and urged them to proliferate this message into their fraternity. Kumar may contest either from Delhi or Punjab, Kher is expected to contest from Delhi, Nana Patekar from Maharashtra, Madhuri Dixit from Tamil Nadu and Salim or Salman Khan either from Mumbai or from Gujarat.
Now, I want to understand why political parties pitch Bollywood icons in the poll fray given their poor record in terms of delivering on promises. While alleging this charge, I am not taking into consideration actors who are nominated for Rajya Sabha membership.. On close scrutiny, it becomes clear that only a hand few Bollywood actors, who have fought and won Lok Sabha elections, have lived up to the expectations of their voter. This list is limited to, in my opinion, Rajesh Khanna, Shatrugan Sinha and Sunil Dutt. Their efforts for their constituency, complemented by attendance, were visible in the Lok Sabha. In fact, when Sunil Dutt died, people of his constituency thronged his funeral to bid adieu to their beloved leader. Similarly, till the time Rajesh Khanna was a Lok Sabha MP, he did not accept any acting assignment as it would have diverted his focus from his constituency. It seems that the key to unlock this puzzle lies in the realization that even if these celebrities win, they are no threat to party leadership. They will not be, in any meaningful way, a dissenting figure. So a party benefits in two ways — you can potentially pick the seat riding on their fame; and he is no threat because they have no organizational depth within the party. The BJP’s Patna Sahib MP Shatrughan Sinha is a glaring example of this. So it is an effective tool to centralize authority. Additionally, such candidates also helps create a buzz around the party.
Not only this, the Bollywood icons have record of wresting stronghold of the opposition and defeating even giant figure of the rival camp. For example, in 1984 Amitabh Bachchan defeated Hemvatinandan Bahuguna from Allahabad constituency while Govinda in 2004 defeated Ram Naik in Mumbai. As the BJP has won near 232 seats in Central, North and Western India, one can expect the opposition parties pitching a good number of celebrities to wrest the BJP retained Lok Sabha seats. Similarly, around 120 Lok Sabha seats are such where a BJP candidate has never won. So, from these constituencies, we can expect a large number of Bollywood icons contesting on the symbol of lotus.
If Bollywood is an attractive destination for Indian political parties, South Indian Cinema too is gaining footfall. As southern India is crucial for both the national parties they may rely on the star power of the regional super-cine stars. Some names like superstar Surya, Vijay, Prithviraj, Balchandra Menon and Neeraj Madhav have already started to surface in media. However, my simple reminder for all these cine celebrities jumping into the poll fray to be like Sunil Dutt if voted to power.