The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Auntie, make way for Jaitley
- Voters tire of ‘moms’, want younger stars to campaign

Lucknow, April 24: Dream Girl' To Ankit Patel, star BJP campaigner Hema Malini sounded like “mom”.

Jaya Bachchan touted herself — for the umpteenth time – as Allahabad’s “bahu” yesterday. The lukewarm reception suggested that the television-age voters saw her more as Aishwarya’s saas.

From the BJP and the Congress to the Samajwadi Party, they have all realised that veteran stars are no longer rousing the young voter, so crucial to an Uttar Pradesh election strewn with marginal seats.

So, they are looking to sign up the Bollywood young set.

The Congress has already got Celina Jaitley to hit the road and its Varanasi candidate, Mohammed Sheikh Shamim, claims he has used Mumbai leader Sanjay Nirupam’s contacts to strike a deal with Kareena Kapoor. “She is likely to campaign for me in Varanasi on April 26,” Shamim said.

The BJP is believed to have sent an SOS to its Mumbai leaders to draft in a few younger stars after Hema left the crowds cold and Shatrughan Sinha’s hackneyed, deep-throated “khamosh” failed to evoke even a polite murmur yesterday.

It could be smart thinking, if Ankit is to be believed. “See, we belong to the Dhoom generation. Jaya Bachchan and Hema Malini play ornamental roles in films. So when they speak about a party, we feel our mom is talking to us,” the first-year BCom student said.

Ronit Sharma, first-year student of political science at Benares Hindu University, agreed. “When we see ageing stars campaign, we feel they are here because they don’t have work in the industry. Stars of this generation can at least draw our attention.”

Celina made the right noises at the Congress office in Lucknow on Sunday by praising Rahul Gandhi, the GeNext leader. “He’s a dedicated Congress worker and sensitive, too,” she said before rushing off to Varanasi.

As Celina criss-crossed the temple town in an open jeep at the head of a 20-car convoy, the BJP’s Smriti “Tulsi” Irani was turning her Lucknow news conference into a yawn, repeating herself and mouthing trite, rehearsed comments.

BJP sources said the party was trying to see if Yukta Mookhey, Urmila Matondkar, Upen Patel and Kunal Khemu were available.

“The reason is obvious. Voters aged between 18 and 25 will play a crucial role, and they are yet to be politically committed. So all parties are wooing them, especially the Congress,” said Ramesh Dixit, professor of political science in Lucknow University.

“An election campaign is difficult business these days, especially in the cities with their multiplexes, computer games and other distractions,” a Bahujan Samaj Party leader rued in Lucknow.

Even Congress functionaries admit that Rahul Gandhi has been able to draw large crowds only in the rural areas.

The Samajwadi Party hasn’t reached out for young Bollywood actors to back up its two Jayas -- Bachchan and Prada. It has hired local stars, dancers, “comedy kings” and an array of Bhojpuri singers, led by Manjor Tiwari and Ravi Kishen.

Is the party expecting Abhishek and Aishwarya at some of its meetings at some point in the campaign' “No,” a leader said, “they will be busy honeymooning”.

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