The Telegraph
Monday , March 10 , 2014
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Set for item number of an election

- Entertainers follow MGR way to carnival of democracy

Bhubaneswar, March 8: Indian elections have often been described as the carnival of democracy.

In Odisha, they promise to be nothing less exciting than an item number this time with members of the glamour industry — films and TV — clambering on to the bandwagons of major political parties lock, stock and barrel.

It’s showtime with an array of movie stars set to unleash their charm on the voters. From Aparajita and Bijay Mohanty to Anubhav and Pinky Pradhan, they all seem eager to don the poll colours making these elections the most glamorous ever in the state. Keen to shore up their fortunes, the parties have been welcoming them with open arms.

The BJD is already chock-a-block with filmwallahs, its latest recruits being Mihir Das and playback singer Trupti Das with television celebrity Satyaki Mishra also following suit. The party, which was the trendsetter in grooming film stars for big time politics having turned matinee idol Siddhant Mohapatra into a Lok Sabha MP, has some of the biggest names from the glamour industry in its ranks. Reigning Odia superstar Anubhav and ace comedian Pappu Pom Pom are working almost full time for the BJD.

Indications are that Cuttack, the political and cultural nerve centre of the state, may witness a star war in the Lok Sabha elections with Anubhav taking on Aparajita, whose candidature has already been announced by the Congress. The main Opposition party has also decided to field biggie Bijay Mohanty from the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat, which might compel the ruling party to shift its sitting MP Prasanna Patasani elsewhere.

The BJP has not lagged behind roping in the likes of Pinky Pradhan, Sritam Das and Pintu Nanda. In terms of star value they may not be as big as the catches by Congress or the BJD, but the party hopes they can still cut some ice with the voters. What is more important is that they are all raring to go having already chalked out plans for a cultural show, something they excel at, to garner support in favour of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The stars trying to make a political statement are looking both within the state and outside for inspiration. While veteran of the Odia film industry Prashant Nanda, a ruling party MLA, who had a stint as a minister, remains a beacon light for them, they also point out how south of the Vindhyas, the line dividing politics from movies has always been thin.

“The success of MGR, Karunanidhi and the current Tamil Nadu chief minister, Jayalalithaa, all of whom had successful careers in films, remains an inspiration. It’s the same in Andhra Pradesh where NTR went on to become the chief minister and Chiranjeevi is a big name in politics now,” said one of the star recruits of the BJD, who was not willing to be quoted.

Surprisingly, while he also brought up the name of yesteryear’s Malyalam superstar Prem Nazir, who had a brief dalliance with politics, he said that for him, the real idols were two-term American president Ronald Reagan and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose Hollywood careers propelled them in politics as well.

Such comparisons notwithstanding, there are opinions against turning the elections into a “tamasha” by seeking to glamorise it with film and TV stars.

“The standard of political debate is certain to go down with non-serious elements entering the election arena. Let’s remember that politics is a serious business,” said Manas Satpathy, a lecturer.

He seems to have a point if one takes into account the performance of Siddhanta Mohapatra as a Lok Sabha MP. During his five years as a parliamentarian, he has asked only four questions (on power supply, cultivation, Ashokan rock edicts and paper plants) and participated in three Lok Sabha debates, the poorest record compared any of the other 20 MPs from the state in the Lower House. Even Prashant Nanda had a dismal record as a politician and was sacked as a minister on corruption charges an year after taking oath.

Will people still put their faith in film stars taking the political plunge? We have to wait for May 16 for an answer to that question.

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