Friday, Oct 31, 2014
A taste of chilli Sawant during a press conference; (top right) on the campaign trail atop a truck in Jogeshwari. A taste of chilli Sawant during a press conference; (top right) on the campaign trail atop a truck in Jogeshwari.
Written by Srinath Raghvendra Rao | Posted: April 13, 2014 12:02 am | Updated: April 12, 2014 11:20 pm

Gone are the days of dancing atop tables. In her latest avatar as a politician, Rakhi Sawant jumps on the campaign wagon and promises swift action to those who care to listen to her.

It had to be the chilli. That the Election Commission decided to offer a green chilli as a symbol for Rakhi Sawant’s maiden political venture cannot be regarded as mere coincidence. Thirteen years after she first sizzled on our screens in Mohabbat hai mirchi, her breakthrough item number in the dud that was Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne, it seems only right that chilli-shaped jewellery should dangle from her ears and wrists as she begins an improbable career as a politician.

On March 28, Sawant, 36, announced the formation of the Rashtriya Aam Party (RAP) and her decision to contest the Lok Sabha elections from her native Mumbai North West constituency. The news has been greeted with amusement and derision in equal measure, and as her team will have you believe, with widespread enthusiasm as well.

“Fire mere mein pehle se raha hai, hamesha se raha hai. Jab se main paida hui, tab se fire raha hai. Isliye mein film industry mein aayi. Aur isliye maine rajneeti mein sirf janta ka dukh door karne ke liye pair rakha hai (I’ve always had a fire in my belly. That is why I entered the film industry. That is why I have entered politics, to serve the people),” says Sawant.

Ever since she stormed into mass consciousness with a string of bit roles and item songs, the daughter of a retired police inspector, Anand Shankar Sawant, and a small-time actress, Jaya Sawant, has created a combative on-screen persona.

Stints on the first season of Bigg Boss, and hosting Rakhi ka Swayamwar (in which Sawant chose one able-bodied candidate as her husband) and Rakhi ka Insaaf (where Sawant, like a desi Judge Judy, dispenses justice to participants on the show) have done little to endear her to a family audience. But Sawant is no wallflower ― she is well aware of her ability to liven up what is viewed as a four-way contest between Congress incumbent Gurudas Kamat, the BJP’s Gajanan Kirtikar, the MNS’s Mahesh Manjrekar and the Aam Aadmi Party’s Mayank Gandhi.

In the week that she has been the vice- president of RAP, Sawant has filed a police complaint against Gandhi for telling a tabloid that no serious person would vote for her, brought Jogeshwari to a standstill with a two-hour roadshow and announced two candidates for the Varanasi and Thane constituencies ― all of this in the past 72 hours.

Once the EC offered the chilli, Sawant lost no time realising its potent effect as a party symbol. “Choosing the green outfit continued…

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