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Since 1st March, 1999
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Celebs join plebs on list of have-nots
- Filmstars, business barons share disappointment of not voting with common man

Mumbai, April 26: For once some stars did not find their place under the sun. And those that did sparkled tinsel-like with political correctness.

Cameras were panning on Premlata Asha as she was complaining about her name not being on the voter list when there was a commotion at the back. The election agent quickly lost interest in Ashatai — deserted, she stood alone, still complaining.

There were louder, and chiselled, voices making the same complaint. Zoom to actor Kajol, her younger sister Tanishaa and mother Tanuja.

Suddenly, a smile crossed 65-year-old Ashatai’s face: “Oh, they also don’t figure on the list' See, I told you, bogus people have created the (voter) list. Tanuja’s name is also not there.”

The voter list in Mumbai North West had become a great leveller.

Ashatai may have been amused by the irony, but the baby-faced Tanishaa, the star of Ssshhh…, was all worked up. “Why is it that for no fault of mine I have been denied my democratic rights,” she screamed. Kajol said it was “not fair”. It was even more unfair, Tanuja chimed in, because their names appear on every government list.

Several celebrities — from showbiz and other biz — who would waltz into Top 10s in their respective professions, found their names missing from the country’s most elementary list.

Voting, it appeared, is a business they take seriously. Mahesh Bhatt, the director who voted with daughter Pooja, said: “Voting is important if we have to make the country truly democratic.”

If you thought political correctness couldn’t get any more correct, wait till you hear Preity Zinta. “It is no point complaining if one doesn’t vote,” she said after exercising her democratic right, reprimanding no one in particular but all those who do not believe this act to be important.

For actor Anupam Kher, Juhu could as well be Chhapra — Laloo Prasad Yadav’s constituency where being unable to vote would raise no eyebrows. Seething with anger, he said: “Something is not right. I went to three polling booths and my name doesn’t find a mention anywhere.”

The chief of the Censor Board was all the more upset because the Election Commission had scissored out his name. Poonam Dhillon’s name wasn’t there, too.

If there was disappointment for the dispossessed — actor Shabana Azmi cluck-clucked as poet Javed Akhtar nodded in husbandly agreement, “Look at these poor people, they can’t vote for someone else’s fault” — there was also delight for freshly-renewed franchise.

Guess who' Bal Thackeray, who had been barred from voting for eight years by the high court for seeking votes in the name of religion. After voting, the Shiv Sena chief said: “I have regained my freedom and it feels great.”

The Sena cadre erupted in celebration.

But Pramod Mahajan, the BJP leader and a member of the party’s elite team of poll managers, nearly came to grief, not finding his name on the primary list. “My wife’s name is there but mine was not. I had to get the second list to trace my name. But finally I voted,” Mahajan said.

Adi Godrej, the businessman, wasn’t so lucky, though his compatriot, Anil Ambani of the Reliance group, had smooth passage, jogging his way to the booth.

Shobhaa De, who has made a reputation writing about celebrities, went running to the collector’s office when she couldn’t find her name. “I have been visiting the collector’s office for the past month since I discovered that my name was not on the rolls,” she said. Today, she was told she had to bear with the “glitch”.

Mumbai’s most famous celebrity Sachin Tendulkar (or is it Amitabh Bachchan'), who came accompanied by wife Anjali, let his finger do the talking for once, and not his bat. A man of few words at most times, he didn’t have any lecture to deliver on democracy and its accompanying rights.

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