IT WAS a blockbuster poll day for Kerala on Friday. After a superstar turned up to campaign, a comedian broke down on camera hinting blackmail, another walked out of the movie artists’ association, and a director uttered the dialogue now nationally famous: “po mone”.
It all centred around the Pathanapuram constituency in Kollam, which has three from Kerala’s film industry in the race — actor-turned-politician K B Ganesh Kumar (LDF), comedian Jagadeesh (Congress), and the man known for his roles of a villain, Bheeman Raghu (BJP).
On Thursday, superstar Mohanlal joined a rally of Ganesh Kumar. While he did not speak politics or solicit votes for his friend, Mohanlal recalled his close links with Pathanapuram constituency. Film director Priyadarsan later joined the rally, talking about his long-term association with Ganesh Kumar.
Ganesh Kumar has been winning from Pathanapuram since his electoral debut in 2001. That was the first time a film-star got elected to the state Assembly. He had been a minister in the outgoing Oommen Chandy-led government, but shifted to the LDF after his party Kerala Congress (B) left the UDF.
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On Friday, Jagadeesh came out in protest against Mohanlal campaigning for his rival. Breaking down on TV, he said, “Although Mohanlal did not solicit votes for Ganesh Kumar, he should not have gone there.” Jagadeesh also accused Mohanlal of violating a notification of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) barring members from campaigning.
But it was what Jagadeesh added that made everyone sit up. “Many people asked me whether it was Ganesh Kumar’s blackmailing that forced Mohanlal to turn up. Media should bring out what is behind the blackmailing. I have regarded Mohanlal as my brother.”
Soon after Jagadeesh’s outburst, comedian Salim Kumar said he was quitting AMMA, also accusing Mohanlal of defying the association.
More people from the film industry soon joined the controversy, with director B Unnikrishnan saying “po mone Jagadeesh (Jagadeesh, get lost)” to the allegation that Mohanlal was blackmailed.
The AMMA president and an MP, Innocent, clarified that the association had issued no such directive and Mohanlal could not be prevented from campaigning. Before going out to campaign, the actors consider their personal relation with the candidate, said Innocent, who himself won as an LDF candidate in 2014 defeating Congress heavyweight P C Chacko.
Actor Mukesh, contesting as a CPM candidate from Kollam, also backed Mohanlal, saying the superstar had promised to campaign for him too. Besides, he said, “None had quit from AMMA when Salim Kumar campaigned for a Congress candidate.”
Actor Dileep, who incidentally also campaigned for Ganesh Kumar, said stars don’t have to consult AMMA. “The association has not taken any decision regarding its members going for campaigning.”