Lok Sabha Elections 2014: Can Celebrities Shine Through Political Darkness?

They rule the box office and the hearts of millions of Bollywood lovers. Their names are crooned among the fans. Then, they are swept away by the vortex of politics.  From Prithviraj Kapoor to Nargis and Shatrughan Sinha to Hema Malini, film personalities have been climbing up and down the political ladder since the 60s. Be it Dev Anand’s rabble-rousing speeches or Rajesh Khanna’s fight against LK Advani in New Delhi, Indian politics has seen all the off-screen actions.

Celebrity quotient is equally high in Lok Sabha elections 2014.

If we keep aside the old horses such as Vinod Khanna (BJP) and Raj Babbar (Congress) there are a good number of newcomers vying for victory. While singer Sukhwinder Singh intends to make ‘Jai ho’ the theme of his poll campaigning, Gul Panag (the former Miss India) is seen on her Enfield as a part of campaigning spree. As an AAP candidate, she is going full throttle to connect with the voters in Chandigarh. Her BJP rival, Kirron Kher could be having sleepless nights. In fact, the whole gamut of celebrities from Paresh Rawal (BJP) to Mahesh Manjrekar (MNS) and Nagma to Rakhi Sawant is ruling the google kingdom as well. They are among the highly searched candidates this election.

Going by the interviews of celebrity candidates and the sloganeering, I gather that the common objective that binds all of them is “Good governance”.  Perhaps, that’s precisely why Rakhi Sawant’s Rashtriya Aam Party (RAAP) pleads “Ek baar mauka dijiye” (Give us one chance).

However, there’s some uneasiness that’s brewing amidst all this.  Riding high on popularity index is certainly a good sign. But going by the past progress reports of celebrity-turned politicians in India, there are strong reasons to worry.  In most cases, Bollywood’s charm couldn’t overcome the challenges that political terrains threw at them.  Despite managing to attract crowds during campaigning, the clout of these celebrities waned after a brief period.  Some of them never put an effort to ‘fit in’. Their significance fizzled out in no time.

After every five years, political parties queue up to rope in celebrities for the elections. But do they look for any other parameters other than the star appeal while zeroing on someone? If not, they are doing no good to their party’s cause. Charm is short-lived but political wisdom stays on for decades. Barring a handful of politically aware actors, the rest all seem faraway figures in politics. In a recent survey conducted by a journo, the gaping ignorance of a long stream of celebrities got exposed. While one didn’t know when and how her party was formed, the other fumbled when asked to name India’s first president.

This abject ignorance doesn’t augur well with the voters. At least I feel so. We don’t want them to be general knowledge freaks or a political encyclopedia, but can’t we expect them to know the bare minimum.  India can’t afford another generation of poorly-informed leaders because the country needs to be run by competent people who can understand and meet the expectations of both the elites and the unlettered populace.

It’s time that political leaders use discretion while doling out poll tickets to these stars, because not all of them can shine the brightest.


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