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Rakhi lets out rigging roar
- Nach Baliye losers file police complaint against channel

Mumbai, Dec. 25: Item girl Rakhi Sawant and her beau Abhishek Awasthi have filed a police complaint against STAR Plus, saying the channel “rigged” votes to stop them winning the Nach Baliye 3 reality dance show.

The two, who were among 12 celebrity couples to participate in the competition, lost to actors Aamir Ali and Sanjeeda Sheikh in the final aired live on Saturday.

Bollywood star Salman Khan appeared as a special guest to announce the winner of the show, which had actress Isha Koppikar, choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant and director David Dhavan as jury.

Sawant and Awasthi walked out after Salman crowned the winning pair.

Last night, they submitted a written complaint to Oshiwara police station, alleging that the channel manipulated SMS votes sent by viewers.

“We have accepted the application and will look into it,” senior inspector Dilip Patil said. “The application alleges that a software which can send several hundred SMS messages at a time was used to ensure that their rivals won the show.”

Allegations of malpractice have surfaced earlier, too, with reality shows, where winners are decided by SMS votes. But this is the first time contestants have approached the police.

STAR accused Sawant, whose allegations were aired on news channels, of pulling a “publicity stunt”.

“It’s nothing but a publicity stunt. They are just using the media for their nefarious publicity purposes. They are losers and it is a case of sour grapes,” STAR Plus executive vice-president and general manager Keertan Adyan Thaya told The Telegraph.

“As long as the pair was progressing through the preliminary rounds, everything was fine. As soon as they lost, they have allegations against everybody.”

Thaya said the channel would cooperate with the police if there was a formal probe.

Asked if Sawant and Awasthi had sent any legal notice, Thaya said: “So far, there has been no contact from them, legal or otherwise.”

The official said the two had first claimed “we fixed it. Now they are claiming that there is SMS tampering by unknown people. What is the basis for any of these claims?”

Sawant and Awasthi have alleged that the results were leaked to the television industry and a prominent production house was aware that the Aamir-Sanjeeda pair would win.

Awasthi said the channel used Sawant in promotional events leading to the grand finale to increase TRP ratings, but backed Aamir and Sanjeeda because Sanjeeda acted in STAR-produced serials.

“Everything was planned, fixed and rigged. Four days back, everyone in a leading production house knew who the winners would be,” said Awasthi, who claimed that STAR officials associated with the show had told them they had a huge lead in SMS votes over Aamir and Sanjeeda.

Sawant urged Mumbai police to act as “Santa” and help investigate the “cyber crime”.

“There is surely something wrong,” said a shocked Sawant fan. “Rakhi and Abhishek were clearly better dancers than Aamir and Sanjeeda. Rakhi perhaps lost because the channel didn’t want to glorify her.”

The final saw high drama as Salman warned Sawant not to cry if she lost. But the tears flowed when he crowned the rival pair, who walked away with Rs 20 lakh and a car.

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