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Campaign cast: B-listers,forgotten stars

The campaign for Tuesday’s assembly elections in Maharashtra,Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh lacked not only a central theme,but also the other staple of the Great Indian Poll tamasha: Bollywood glamour....

Written by Harneet Singh | Mumbai |
October 14, 2009 4:47:34 am

The campaign for Tuesday’s assembly elections in Maharashtra,Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh lacked not only a central theme,but also the other staple of the Great Indian Poll tamasha: Bollywood glamour.

No party invited a major Bollywood A-lister to its campaign,and barring the lone Salman Khan — who campaigned for Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in Bhokar and for Amit Deshmukh in Latur City — roadshows were populated largely by B-town’s B-listers,long-forgotten stars,and celebs of the small screen.

And so,all that stargazers got to see on the campaign trail were the likes of Shakti Kapoor,Suniel Shetty,Ravi Kissen,Sambhavna Seth,Urmila Matondkar,Chunkey Pandey,Sonali Kulkarni,Priti Jhangiani,Ashutosh Rana,Aamir Ali,Bhagyashree and Aditya Panscholi.

Parties took the line that since Assembly polls were localised affairs,they had kept the overtures to Bollywood at the minimum and left campaign guest lists to individual candidates.

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“This being a local election,we left the decision of inviting Bollywood stars to the candidates. The candidates invited people on their own depending on their personal rapport and appeal. As a party,we focused on getting our national and state leaders to campaign. Of course the Bollywood stars added to the campaign but they were not the main people,” said Sanjay Dutt,a co-ordinator with the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee.

A BJP leader at the party headquarters in Mumbai agreed. “Our star Bollywood campaigners are our party people like Hema Malini,Shatrughan Sinha and Smriti Irani. Any other Bollywood star who campaigned for the party was invited by the individual candidates,” said the leader,who did not want to be quoted.

For the celebs,it was mostly about personal connect and long-standing friendships. Shakti Kapoor said he campaigned for his “childhood friend”,Congress candidate Aslam Shaikh in Malad,because “Aslam is a young and handsome boy and the country needs the youth to take charge.”

Chunkey Pandey campaigned for his “friends” and Congress candidates Suresh Shetty (Andheri East) and Naseem Khan (Chandivali) “because,from my personal experience I know they have what it takes”.

Television star Aamir Ali supported Shaikh as a return favour. “A few years ago I was in some problem and Aslam really helped me out. He’s a sweet guy and he knows the problems of Malad. He has promised better roads and I know he will do his best,” Ali said.

Suniel Shetty,who campaigned for the Congress nominee from Amravati,Rajendra Shekhawat,said he was an old friend of the candidate,who is the son of President Pratibha Patil. “My cousin is a close friend of Rajendra’s and I’ve known him for years. This is not the first time that I’ve been a part of a political rally. I’ve always been there for my friends irrespective of the party that they represent,” said Shetty,who also came out to support the son of Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and NCP candidate,Pankaj,in Nandgaon.

Aditya Pancholi said he canvassed for Independent candidate from Gurgaon,Sukhbir Kataria,because of his credentials. “Sukhbir is an industrialist. He wants to join politics so that he can do social work. I think we need that kind of energy,” said Pancholi.

Kataria also earned Priti Jhangiani’s support because of his “efforts to control crime in Gurgaon”.

“I have family in Gurgaon who vouched that Sukhbir has deployed patrolmen on the streets which has really curbed crime against women. I noticed that in the rally there were a lot of women supporters,” Jhangiani said.

While many chose friendship over party,some like Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kissen and item girl Sambhavna Seth backed parties,not candidates. Kissen,who had camped in UP for two months before the Lok Sabha elections building support for the Congress,said he canvassed for Assembly candidates Rajhans Singh,Kripashankar Singh and Baldev Khosa because of his “emotional attachment” to the Congress.

“Campaigning is a huge responsibility. I can’t misguide my fans. I campaigned for these candidates because I trust the party they represent,so I know they will do a good job,” said Kissen.

Seth,who had campaigned for her Bigg Boss housemate Sanjay Nirupam in the Lok Sabha elections,supported the Congress’s Bharat Parekh in Charkop.

Though most celebs were unwilling to discuss if they were paid for the campaign,Seth conceded she had been offered money by rival parties. “Of course celebrities are offered money to campaign and some of them take it also… But they are the ones who will campaign for any candidate and for any party. In my case,I’ve only supported Congress since I feel an affinity with the party. I’ve been offered money by rival parties but I’ve declined,” she said.

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