Gimmicks to win Indian elections
- Like Nehru-Indira, PM Narendra Modi seen flanked by film-stars
- Southern Indian States preferred the film stars as Chief Ministers
Dr. Hari Desai
The Indian elections are bringing more and more gimmicks in the campaign instead of debating real issues for the visionary development of the country and welfare of the people. Not that this is a new trend. Right from the days the stalwarts of the freedom movement started disappearing from the political scenario, they were replaced by such political leaders who merely used the names of the freedom fighters to win the elections. The political ideologies started vanishing with political workers deserting their mother organizations with craving to get personal favours or governmental positions. Using the mass psyche of having free lunches, various political parties started mushrooming even at regional level, making the major national parties more and more dependent on them. Barring the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), other parties, including the Communists, either lost their national character or got converted into regional parties forcing the coalitions headed by the major national parties to toe their line in lieu of their support and sharing power with them.
India has seen the era of the film stars joining election campaigns. Delivering the filmy dialogs, making an appeal to voters to vote for the candidates of a particular party, they started mesmerizing the voters without much of ideological convictions. Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, who were often seen flanked by Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Nargis and others, had a clout of fans in the world of Hindi cinema i.e. Bollywood. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to follow Nehru-Indira in attracting the Bollywood stars these days.
Gradually, the filmy heroes and heroines started contesting elections for Lok Sabha or getting nominated to the Rajya Sabha during Congress era. Later no national party was exception. The year 1967 and following years saw the film stars and others attached to regional films becoming the Chief Ministers and calling the shots in the political scenario in various States. The people of Tamil Nadu followed by Andhra Pradesh chose to have Superstars or Script writers like M.Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramchandran (MGR), J. Jayalalithaa and N.T. Rama Rao as their Chief Ministers when the Congress was losing ground in these southern States. Free or cheap distribution of rice to TV sets repeatedly made the DMK or AIADMK, both regional Dravidian parties formed the governments in rotation at St. George Fort (Madras, now Chennai) and TDP at Hyderabad. Tamil Nadu established a record of not having any national party in power ever since DMK formed the government headed by C.N. Annadurai, a journalist-playwright in 1967. MGR was a Congressman who joined DMK and later established AIADMK. Film star Kama Hassan has launched his own political party in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Superstar Rajnikanth (Shivaji Rao Gaekwad) is in a process of launching party to contest next Assembly polls.
We can have a long list of Bollywood (Hindi), Kollywood (Tamil), Tollywood (Bengali, Telugu), Mollywood (Malayalam), Pollywood (Punjabi) as well as Dhollywood (Gujarati) and Tellywood (Television) stars joining the Parliament and various State Assemblies. Some of them were nominated to the Rajya Sabha and others contested the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections. Some successful, others not so successful and some of them like Amitabh Bachhan even disillusioned by the politics. Prithviraj Kapoor, Nargis, Jaya Bhaduri-Bachchan, Rekha, Raj Babbar, Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Dara Singh, Jayalalithaa, Smriti Irani etc. joined the House of elders where as Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Shatrugna Sinha, Govinda, Hema Malini, Jaya Prabha, Kiran Kher, Ramya, Vijay Shanti, Moon Moon Sen, Babul Supriyo, Arvind Trivedi, Deepika Chikhliya, Paresh Rawal etc., successfully contested the elections for Lok Sabha. Shatrugna Sinha was Minister in Vajpeyee cabinet and Supriyo, a celebrated singer, became Minister in Modi Cabinet. Latest entry to politics is that of Sunny Deol who contests from Punjab where as his step-mother Hema Malini is contesting from UP. Like Dharmendra’s family, late Gujarati Super star Upendra Trivedi and his younger brother, Arvind alias Lankesh both joined politics. Dholiwood superstars, Naresh and his son Hitu Kanodia are elected Gujarat MLAs where as Naresh’s singer brother was elected as a Member of Parliament. Some film stars vanish from politics where as others get sustained for a longer time.
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(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )