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Polls ahead, time to flaunt star power

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 27: Parties gearing up for the general elections have begun flaunting their star power. The latest star catch of the Congress, the main Opposition party, is Bijay Mohanty, who is quite a hit with the Odia movie-goers even in character roles.

Sixty-year-old Mohanty, who joined the Congress today, following the footsteps of his equally famous co-artiste, Aparajita, said he had taken the political plunge to give something back to the people, who had showered him with love and affection for all these years.

“I have got a lot from the people of the state. Now, I want to give them something back. Politics provides an excellent platform to serve the people. I am very positive about it,” said Mohanty, who the Congress is likely to field as its candidate from the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat.

Mohanty, who begun his film career in 1977 as a hero, is an alumni of the National School of Drama and a contemporary of Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar and Om Puri. His wife, Tandra Ray, was one of the most popular actresses in the late 70s and 80s.

Mohanty, who eulogised the Congress describing it as a party with a great ideology and a long history, said he was not averse to contesting the Lok Sabha polls from any seat. “But that decision has to be taken by the leadership,” he averred.

Welcoming Mohanty into the party fold, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jaydev Jena said: “We are open to people from all sections of the society. As Bijaya Mohanty and before him Aparajita Mohanty evinced interest in joining the Congress, we welcomed them. We think they will be assets to the party.” Aparajita is being tipped as the Congress candidate from the Cuttack Lok Sabha seat.

The trend of Odia film personalities joining politics began in the late 90s with actor-turned-producer Prashant Nanda jumping onto BJP’s bandwagon, much to the surprise of his fraternity.

Nanda, who has since acquired the tag of a party hopper, is a BJD MLA.

Yesteryear’s matinee idol Siddhant Mohapatra was the next to take the political plunge and contested the Lok Sabha polls from Berhampur in 2009 on the BJD ticket.

Among the most popular MPs of the ruling party today, he is in great demand during election campaigns.

While the reigning superstar of Odia film industry, Anubhab Mohanty, and popular comedian Pappu Pom Pom joined the BJD last year on the eve of urban polls in the state, well-known lead actor Akash Das Nayak is likely to follow suit. Sources said Nayak, the son of a labour union leader, was keen on contesting the Korei Assembly seat on a BJD ticket. Preeti Ranjan Ghadai, son of BJD stalwart and former minister Prafulla Ghadei represents the seat.

While the Congress and the BJD seem all set to turn the coming elections into a virtual star war, the BJP has not lagged behind. Yesterday, it welcomed popular actors, Sritam Das and Pinki Pradhan, into its fold. “If film stars join the party with a commitment to serve people, it will help our cause,” said state BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari.

Youth wing chief of the BJD Sanjay Dasburma said there was nothing wrong in movie stars joining politics as they, too, had a duty towards the society. “Like us, they are also entitled to serve the people as political representatives. Besides, their participation adds much-needed glamour to election campaigns. They should be welcomed by political parties with open arms,” argued the leader.


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