From actors to doctors and army majors—the outsiders who have stepped out of their day jobs and stepped in to run Campaign 2014.
SAHDEV SALARIA (22)
Campaign manager for Kirron Kher, BJP
Chandigarh Lok Sabha Constituency
There is a twirl to his moustache and a trimmed beard covers most of the handsome face. A red tilak adorns the forehead, and he wears a starched white kurta-pyjama and a silk jacket to offset it. What is Sahdev Salaria, a 22-year-old model-turned-actor, doing in Dadu Majra, a village in Chandigarh? As prachaar sahayak of the BJP in Chandigarh, Salaria, who is awaiting the release of his first Punjabi film Happy Go Lucky in June, is turning heads. But he has no time to think about it. He is busy, very busy with Kirron Kher, the BJP candidate from Chandigarh. He has to help her win this election.
“The city’s party cadre was expecting one of the three local BJP leaders to be fielded from the constituency. So it came as a surprise to everyone when Kirronji was chosen,” says Salaria, who was tasked with assisting Kher. “We connect as actors and I am likely to understand her better than a regular politician,” says Salaria, referring to her Louis Vuitton bags and Cartier shades.
It hasn’t been a glamorous run for Kher, though. She was welcomed into the constituency with black flags and eggs flying at her. “It was a rude shock. But she is brave. She took it all in her stride and she said she would talk to everyone,” Salaria says.
A Barry Johns Acting School diploma holder, Salaria was modelling in Mumbai till a year ago. With several assignments under his belt, he chose to return to Chandigarh. “I am from Pathankot and my father has been with the RSS for many years. I came to Chandigarh to be near my family. I did a film while I was here,” he says.
Acting and politics complement each other, Salaria says. People are impressed with the campaign’s celebrity status. His film is not out, but Salaria is already a hit with Kher. In a village in Chandigarh, he offers her his hand in support as she climbs stairs. He makes sure no one gets too close for comfort and bails her out of tricky situations, explaining the context and interpreting questions from the media.
Being campaign incharge is a tough job. Salaria is up at 5 am and at Kher’s house by 7. The day is all chalked out. Public meetings, rallies and road shows. The breaks are getting shorter and fewer as the elections close in. “I try to keep her spirits high which is very important in electioneering. She is a pleasure to be with. No starry tantrums. Both of us start our day with puja, that is another bond between us,” he says.