Election 2019: How Stardom Fuelled These Women Actors’ Campaigns
Actors joining politics and campaigning largely on their star power and popularity is fairly common in India. Several actors in the past have emerged as successful politicians, like late actor-turned-CM J Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu and Smriti Irani up north, who is currently a union minister in the NDA government. And like every Lok Sabha elections, this year as well, there are quite a few female actors both experienced and greenhorns to politics, who are contesting to become Members of Parliament.
While Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Kirron Kher, Moon Moon Sen, and Irani have been in politics for years, Urmila Matondkar, Bengali actors Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty, and actress Sumalatha from down south are newbies who joined politics just before the Lok Sabha elections began. Several of these actors found a safety net in national political parties. BJP, for instance has fielded incumbents like Malini, Kher, and Irani for the second time. Congress welcomed Matondkar right before the election in Maharashtra. They fielded her from Mumbai North constituency. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress opened doors for Chakraborty and Jahan and fielded Sen for the second time. Sumalatha on the other hand, is the only female actor who is contesting independently in the on-going election.
While there may be more male actors who ventured into politics, fewer women actors who took on the political role have failed, if we compare.
These actors dive into politics with a huge amount of privilege that comes with being a popular face. It gives them an upper hand against any other candidate. While there may be more male actors who ventured into politics, fewer women actors who took on the political role have failed, if we compare. So we can say that on an average women actors who turned politicians enjoyed longer political careers than their male counterparts. Even in the current elections, most of the women actors contesting polls are those who have been MPs in the past.
Coming to political campaigns led by these actors, BJP candidate from Mathura, Malini took to visiting wheat fields in her constituency and getting pictures clicked of herself carrying bundles of the freshly harvested crop. She also got her husband and fellow actor Dharmendra to campaign for her.
“People greeted me happily. They welcomed me because I have done a lot for people of Mathura. I am proud of what I did in Mathura. In the near future, more development will be the only aim. Nobody has done anything for Mathura before me like the way I did,” Malini told journalists in Mathura.
She also took to Twitter and wrote, “Began my Lok Sabha campaign today with the Govardhan Kshetra where I had the opportunity to interact with women working in the fields. A few fotos for u of my first day of the campaign.” Mathura polling concluded in phase two on April 18.
People greeted me happily. They welcomed me because I have done a lot for people of Mathura. I am proud of what I did in Mathura. – Hema Malini
Sumalatha ropes in glamour
Another actor who contested in phase two of the elections was Sumalatha from Mandya constituency. She took on the political battle after the death of her husband Ambareesh who was an MP from Mandya. At the start of her political career, she waited for the Congress party to nominate her from Mandya, but that did not happen. As a result of this, she filed her nomination independently. Several Congress workers and Kannada stars—Darshan Tugudeepa and Yash—producer-director Rockline Venkatesh and actor Doddanna joined her in her campaign, which she helmed all on her own.
Jaya Prada battled controversy
Phase three saw BJP fielding Jaya Prada from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh against Azam Khan of Samajwadi Party. Prada has been an MP from Rampur twice in 2004 and 2009 from SP, but the party expelled her on grounds that she was allegedly involved in anti-party activities. This time she made a comeback to the constituency but with BJP. However the major highlight of her candidacy was the objectionable comment made on her by SP’s Khan. The Election Commission then banned Khan from campaigning for two days. As for Prada, she carried out election rallies across the constituency.
“In 17 days of a short span of time, I visited the whole region. Earlier, we used to do election campaign for 2 months but this time, we had only 17 days.” She also reacted on Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan’s remarks against her, saying, “Azam Khan is panicked and scared. He looks at women as enemies.”
Urmila Shone And Moon Moon fussed
Two female actors, one new and one old were out and about campaigning across their constituencies—Matondkar from Mumbai North and incumbent Sen from Asansol respectively.
In 17 days of a short span of time, I visited the whole region. Earlier, we used to do election campaign for 2 months but this time, we had only 17 days. – Jaya Prada
Matondkar banked on her stardom and the fact that she is a Marathi by birth, thus establishing a personal connect with the voters. This connection with the Mumbai crowd has shone tremendously during her canvassing. But whether it will transform into an electoral victory for her or not, remains to be seen,
TMC’s Sen, on the other hand, stirred up controversy, merely by being oblivious to the violence in the constituency she is contesting from. A journalist questioned Sen, the sitting MP from Bankura, about it and she responded saying that she isn’t aware of it as she woke up late. “They gave me my bed tea very late, so I woke up very late. What can I say? I really don’t know,” Moon Moon Sen responded on being quizzed over the clashes between the BJP and TMC workers.
Smriti Irani’s Resourceful Campaign
Union minister Irani is contesting yet again against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from Amethi constituency, despite losing to him in 2014. Her campaign involved her joining in on the fire-fighting efforts in Purab Dwara village in Uttar Pradesh. While being on a campaign visit in Amethi, Irani was seen pumping water from a hand pump and telling the fire-brigade to keep on with their efforts to spray water on the smoke-filled fields.
Development and “Modi wave”
Seventh and the last phase of the elections, which will take place on May 19, also has the highest number of female actors contesting, at three. BJP’s Kher is an incumbent MP from Punjab’s Chandigarh constituency, who is riding on the “Modi wave” and the work she says she has done in her constituency.
“There is a factor of the Modi wave and also the work I carried out in the city in the past five years,” Kher told media. She added that she had worked for every sector, including health and education. She pointed out that the upper age limit in government jobs was raised from 25 to 37 years. To solve the growing problem of traffic congestion in the city, Kher batted for bringing in a rapid transit system, monorail, and minibuses.
One of the top actresses in Bengali cinema, Chakraborty drew a lot of attention through her two-month long campaign. One of her pictures in which she was wearing gloves while canvassing and shaking hands with the general public, faced flak from other parties. Mimi’s team claimed she has suffered nail scratches & burns over the last few days of the campaign as a result of which she is wearing the gloves, reported Zee News.
I don’t believe in maligning people on stage and saying harsh words against anyone. This is because firstly I am new in politics and secondly, whatever people are saying about me or my colleague Nusratis not stopping us from going ahead.- Mimi Chakraborty.
Chakraborty has openly supported her fellow actor Jahan in her decision of entering politics. “I don’t believe in maligning people on stage and saying harsh words against anyone. This is because firstly I am new in politics and secondly, whatever people are saying about me or my colleague Nusratis not stopping us from going ahead,” she said in an interview.
Alternatively, Jahan’s foray into politics has been mostly about her star persona and the fact that she is a leading Tollywood actor. Most of her campaign has been about mingling with fans in Basirhat (which by the way is also the area where her shows are mostly sellouts). Besides fans, TMC’s party workers are also finding it an opportunity to meet the actor in person during her campaigning visits.
While all these politicians may have been actors at some point in their careers, most of them have proved their mettle as politicians as well. The new entrants will have to show their worth if they grow in politics or fade away if they lose this time.