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Stars add glitz to rough and tumble of electoral politics this poll season

twitter-logoPTI | April 25, 2019 | Updated 17:33 IST

New Delhi, Apr 25 (PTI) The road to power in Election 2019 is liberally sprinkled with stardust as celebs from Bollywood and beyond appeal for votes, either as campaigners, candidates or simply camp followers, emphasising once again the close connect between cinema and politics. The newest entrant to the select club of showbiz stars trying to find political relevance is Bollywood's very own action man Sunny Deol, who joined the BJP this week and will contest the elections from Gurdaspur in Punjab. Following in the footsteps of his famous father Dharmendra, who was a BJP MP from Bikaner from 2004-09, Sunny joins several actors from India's various tinsel towns tentatively testing the political waters this time. His "Dillagi" co-star Urmila Matondkar is the Congress candidate from Mumbai North and stepmother Hema Malini, the BJP's sitting MP from Mathura, is contesting again. There are several others who are not contesting but are making their presence felt. Akshay Kumar created a splash with his "non political" interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. Many of his colleagues, including Shah Rukh Khan, have put out messages encouraging people to cast their votes after Modi's call to them increase voter awareness. The party lines cut every which way. The BJP has fielded veteran Jaya Prada, who joined it just recently, from Rampur and the Congress has put Shatrughan Sinha in the fray in Patna Sahib. It's a family show for Sinha, who left the BJP to join the Congress, with his wife Poonam Sinha contesting as a Samajwadi Party candidate from Lucknow. Then there is Raj Babbar, who entered politics as a member of the Janata Dal in 1989 and joined the SP till his suspension in 2006. Two years later, he joined the Congress and now heads the party in Uttar Pradesh. Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kishan has also shifted his allegiance from Congress to BJP and is now contesting from Gorakhpur. Deol said joining BJP is like being a part of another family. "The way my father was attached with Atalji, today I have come to join Modiji... I won't talk, I will show you through my work," Deol said. Matondkar also promised to bring about positive change. "I am not approaching this whole thing as a star with my star image. I am trying to get to the grassroots and connect to the people," she said. In Chandigarh, Kirron Kher, the BJP MP from the constituency, is contesting again from the party. It is a star spangled show in West Bengal too. Moonmoon Sen is trying to win the Asansol seat on a Trinamool Congress ticket against singer Babul Supriyo, the incumbent BJP MP. The TMC is fielding actor Nusrat Jahan from the South Bengal seat and Mimi Chakraborty from Jadavpur. Down south, superstar Kamal Haasan, who has formed his own political party MNM, has fielded 40 candidates though he himself is not contesting. His contemporary Rajinikanth has repeatedly indicated his desire to join politics but is yet to form a political party. National Award winning actor Prakash Raj, a staunch critic of the ruling government's policies, has also jumped in the political fray as an independent candidate from Bengaluru Central Lok Sabha constituency. Raj made headlines with his trenchant comments after the assassination of his friend and journalist Gauri Lankesh in September 2017. Malayalam actor Suresh Gopi is fighting in Thrissur on a BJP ticket while actor Sumalatha is hoping to make her electoral fortunes as an independent candidate from Mandya, a seat held by her late husband, actor Ambarish. The road from the silver screen to political power has not always been smooth. While stars often find it easy to get in, there is a limit to the heights they can achieve in politics, especially in north India. In southern India, stars such as M G Ramachandran, N T Rama Rao and J Jayalalithaa have touched the zenith. There are some success stories but they are few and far between. Sunil Dutt, a Congress loyalist, rose to the position of minister and was youth affairs and sports minister when he died. His daughter Priya Dutt, a non-actor, is taking his political legacy forward. Son Sanjay Dutt had a brief but controversial stint in politics and tried to fight the elections on a ticket from Samajwadi Party in 2009 and was even appointed general secretary of the party. But run-ins with the law did not let him pursue a political career and he has been campaigning for his sister now. Like Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna also managed a relatively controversy-free stint as a politician while balancing his career in Bollywood. He was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, first for culture and tourism and later as minister of state for external affairs. The one person who was voted as MP with a massive majority but then swore off politics is Amitabh Bachchan, who won on a Congress ticket from Allahabad in 1984 but realised he was unsuited for the dirt and the grime of politics as his name cropped up in the Bofors scandal. His wife Jaya Bachchan has had a better career in politics as an SP MP in the Rajya Sabha. Many others like Rajesh Khanna and Govinda found transitory success in politics, dabbling in it briefly only to go back to the familiar arena of the silver screen. PTI BK MIN MIN MIN

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