Film artistes in politics: India
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National Party of India
Dev Anand floated the National Party of India following the lifting of Emergency in 1977. But the foray proved short-lived and the party was disbanded; the actor later reportedly said “politics is not for the soft-hearted”. Here, at one of the first public meetings for the party at Mumbai’s Shiva-ji Park in 1979, jurist Nani Phalkhivala addresses the crowd as a host of Bollywood stars, including Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini, Reena Roy, and Dev Anand, look on. Also present are MC Chagla, former Bombay HC chief justice, and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
2019: Big 3 join BJP
Not long ago, they were to Bhojpuri cinema what the Khans — Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir — are to Bollywood. Manoj Tiwary, Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ were the three biggies who ruled Bhojwood. And with ‘Nirahua’ joining BJP in Lucknow on Wednesday, the three musketeers who helped the regional film industry survive and thrive are now part of the saffron glamour brigade. This is Bhojpuri cinema’s biggest moment in the political spotlight.
Their roles in the coming Lok Sabha election will be decided in the next few days. But at the moment, all three are expected to fight for a seat in the Lower House.
“I was asked to contest by UP CM Yogi Adityanath. I am ready,” Nirahua told a news channel. Told he might be asked to face Akhilesh Yadav in Azamgarh, the actor said, “Yeh to bahut achha hoga (That would be great). My home is in nearby Ghazipur.”
Fellow actor Ravi Kishan, who had finished a disappointing sixth on a Congress ticket from Jaunpur in 2014, is hoping to find success with BJP. “I will fight either from Jaunpur or Gorakhpur depending on what is decided by the party. I am inspired by PM Narendra Modi to give back to my community,” the 49-year-old actor told TOI over the phone.
He isn’t the only one to switch channels. Tiwary was a Samajwadi Party candidate for Gorakhpur in 2009. He had finished third. The singeractor, whose Mumbai office was attacked by MNS activists in 2008, won North-East Delhi in 2014, his likely seat again. A star campaigner during the Bihar state polls in 2015, he is now also the Delhi BJP president, a sure sign of the capital’s changed demographics.
Both Kishan and Tiwary are Brahmins. Nirahua is a Yadav, the first OBC to become a major male star in Bhojpuri cinema. He started what could be loosely termed ‘Mandalisation’ in the regional cinema. Bhojpuri film stars of the previous generation were either Rajputs (Sujit Kumar) or Brahmins (Rakesh Pandey). Now, there are others OBC stars such as Khesarilal Yadav.
The trio comes from the Poorvanchal area. The son of a well-heeled farmer, Tiwary grew up in Varanasi although his family roots go back to Bihar’s Bhabhua district. A medium pacer who had played in the Vizzy Trophy, he took to music professionally after failing to make headway as a cricketer. Kishan is the son of a priest from Jaunpur district. Karate-kid Nirahua was born in Kolkata where his father was a factory worker. Unlike Kishan, both Nirahua and Tiwary are singer-actors. Nirahua took to stage at an early age and soon became a paisa vasool performer in east UP, Bihar and later even in Fiji.
Tiwary’s ‘Sasura Bada Paisewala’ revived the ailing Bhojpuri film industry in 2004. Kishan’s ‘Panditji Batain Na Biyaah Kab Hoi’ proved the success was no flash in the pan. Interestingly, Nagma, one of the two heroines in the film, later contested on a Congress ticket from Meerut in 2014, finishing fourth.
Nirahua’s ‘Nirahua Rickshawala’ (2007) and ‘Nirahua Chalal Sasural’ (2008) were box-office hits. The first featured a long, fiery kiss that was endlessly discussed. Their combined success elevated Bhojpuri films from a cottage industry to a regular film industry that produced 50-70 films a year. In 2017, another singer-actor, Pawan Singh (‘Lolipop Lagelu’) too had joined BJP.
But opponents aren’t looking too impressed with Congress’s Ajay Rai saying taking help from the glamour brigade while ignoring local politicians will demotivate a cadre-based party like BJP. BJP’s Nagendra Raghuvanshi countered this by saying that “these artistes are impressed by PM Modi’s leadership. Their joining BJP proves that our popularity is growing”.
Lok Sabha elections
1967-2014: More hits than flops
Congress started it. Now Bharatiya Janata Party and All India Trinamool Congress have taken it to the next level. In these general elections, starlets Mimi Chakraborty (Jadavpur) and Nusrat Jahan (Basirhat) will be two fresh additions to a long list of actors who have contested for a seat in Parliament's Lower House.
Since the Eighties, film personalities have become synonymous with Lok Sabha polls. A candidate’s proficiency in politics is hardly a consideration. Winnability is the key factor behind these choices. The hard fact is that the glamour brigade has delivered more hits than flops in national elections.
However, their overall performance in Parliament has been largely lacklustre. Many are frequently absent from sessions and often silent during proceedings. Yet, as ML Ahuja writes in his book, General Elections in India, “Despite their dismal track record, film personalities continue to be in great demand... The offer is simple: There is no complicated argument about ideology or what they expect from each other after the elections.”
Kongara Jaggaiah, Cong: Probably the first actor to win a Lok Sabha poll. The Telugu star became an MP from Ongole, winning by nearly 80,000 votes in 1967 . Amitabh Bachchan, Cong (I): Humbled stalwart Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna (Lok Dal) by over 1,87,000 votes in Allahabad in 1984. Quit mid-term.
Sunil Dutt, Cong (I): Got more than double the votes won by closest rival, Ram Jethmalani, in his poll debut win from North West Bombay in 1984. No actor has equaled his tally of five LS terms. Vyjayanthimala, Cong (I): The star of films such as 'Naya Daur' and 'Sangam' emerged victorious from Madras South in 1984.
Balkavi Bairagi, Cong (I): A songwriter in Sunil Dutt’s Reshma Aur Shera, he triumphed from Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, in 1984. Earlier had famously vanquished Jana Sangh's Sunderlal Patwa in 1968 MP assembly polls.
Deepika Chikhalia, BJP: Ramayan’s Sita triumphed from Baroda in 1991, underlying the blockbuster TV serial’s ground impact.
Arvind Trivedi, BJP: Ramayan’s Raavan, and a Gujarati film star to boot, overcame stiff opposition to succeed from Sabarkantha in 1991.
Rajesh Khanna, Cong: The ex-Bollywood superstar rattled BJP biggie LK Advani. Khanna lost by a mere 1,589 votes from New Delhi constituency in 1991 but bested fellow actor Shatrughan Sinha by over 28,000 votes later.
Nitish Bharadwaj, BJP: Playing Krishna in Mahabharata made him a familiar face across the country. Bharadwaj triumphed from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, in 1996, but lost the second time at Raigarh in 1999.
Vinod Khanna, BJP: Gurdaspur in Punjab was a Congress stronghold till the beefy hero turned it into his backyard. He won four times (1998, 1999, 2004, 2014). He was the Union minister of state for tourism & culture & external affairs.
K Satyanarayana, TDP: The Telugu film actor entered politics in 1996, winning the Machilipatnam seat in Andhra Pradesh by over 80,000 votes.
Krishnam Raju, BJP: The rebel star of Telugu films carried the day by over 67,000 votes in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, in 1998.
Ambreesh, JD & Cong: The Kannada star produced a hat-trick of hits from Mandya in 1998 (Janata Dal), 1999 (Cong) and 2004 (Cong). Also, served briefly as Union minister of state for information and broadcasting.
Shatrughan Sinha, BJP: Two-time winner from Patna Sahib (2009 and 2014). Enjoyed ministerial berth in the Vajpayee government. Might contest from Patna Sahib again, but certainly not on a BJP ticket.
Raj Babbar, SP/Cong: The actor (Nikaah, Aaj Ki Awaz) won from Agra for Samajwadi Party in 1999 and 2004 and again from Firozabad on a Cong ticket in 2009. Lost last time to Gen VK Singh from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Jaya Prada, SP: Joined politics via TDP, contested on a SP ticket in Uttar Pradesh. Won from Rampur in 2004 and 2009. Lost from Bijnor in 2014 on a RLD ticket.
Govinda, Cong: The actor with the pink trousers and parrot green shirt outshone BJP bigwig Ram Naik in Mumbai North in 2004. Quit politics mid-term in Jan 2008. Attendance till then: 15%.
Dharmendra, BJP: Elected in 2004. Locals once brought out a missing person advertisement lamenting his absence from his constituency, Bikaner, Rajasthan.
Ramya Divya Spandana, Cong: The Kannada star won from Mandya in a 2013 by-poll.
Vijaya Shanti, TRS: The actor, known for fiery performances in Telugu cinema, won from Medak constituency in Telangana in 2009. Attendance: 14%.
D Napoleon, DMK: The Tamil actor, known for his tough guy image, won from Perambalur in 2009.
Satabdi Roy, TMC: The Tollywood actress delivered two winners in a row from Birbhum: 2009 and 2014.
Moon Moon Sen, TMC: The Bollywood star of Andar Bahar, and dozens of Tollywood films, became a giant-killer defeating CPM’s nine-time winner Basudeb Acharia by nearly a lakh votes in Bankura in 2014. Attendance: 69%.
Tapas Paul, TMC: The Tollywood star, also the leading man in Madhuri Dixit’s debut film Abodh, is a two-time MP from Krishnanagar in 2009 and 2014. Was arrested by CBI for his alleged role in the Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam.
Sandhya Roy, TMC: The Bengali actor of well-known films such as Sansar Simante scored a handsome victory by over 1.86 lakh votes in Medinipur. Attendance: 53%.
Hema Malini, BJP: The actor-turned-politician waltzed to victory in Mathura. Margin: over 3.30 lakh. Asked 210 questions in Parliament. Attendance: 39%.
Paresh Rawal, BJP: The prolific character actor produced a landslide winning by 3.26 lakh from Ahmedabad East. Attendance: 66%.
Babul Supriyo, BJP: The Bollywood singer was a surprise winner from Asansol in 2014. Attendance: 45%.
Deepak ‘Dev” Adhikari, TMC: The Bengali filmstar, also MP from Ghatal, was hardly seen in Parliament. Attendance: 11%.
Kirron Kher, BJP: The Chandigarh MP made her presence felt in Parliament asking 337 questions and interjecting in 38 debates. Attendance: 84%.
George Baker: The Tezpur-born actor of Chameli Memsaab had an impressive 98% attendance record (nominated).
Innocent, Independent: The Kerala actor won from Chalakudy as an independent in 2014. Backed by the Left Democratic Front, he overcame senior Congressman PC Chacko. Attendance: 69%.
Manoj Tiwary, BJP: After a false start with Samajwadi Party in Gorakhpur in 2009, the singer-actor switched sides to find success from North-East Delhi. Attendance: 80%.
Artistes who did not win
Film director Muzaffar Ali and actors Nafisa Ali, Smriti Irani, Shekhar Suman, Gul Panag, Joy Banerjee, Javed Jaffrey, Rakhi Sawant, and Mahesh Manjrekar have also fought for Lok Sabha seats but were denied victory. Irani became a Union cabinet minister nonetheless.
(All attendance figures, except Govinda’s, taken from prsindia.org)
See graphic :
Some Film artistes who contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2019
The performance of film artistes in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019
Film artistes in politics: India