BENGALURU: The influence of stardom on Karnataka’s electoral history has been minimal till date compared to the neighbouring states of Tamilnadu or the undivided Andhra. Even in this elections, participation and influence continues to be at its nadir as Sandalwood is unable to exploit ‘linguistic identification’ in a state where the demographics of people speaking Kannada varies from district to district.
The three major political parties — BJP, Congress and JD-(S) — are fielding a few stars who are proven politicians such as Ambareesh, Umashree, B C Patil and Muniratna while BJP has fielded Kumar Bangarappa, N L Narendra Babu and C P Yogeshwar. However, rest of the star power will be relegated to campaigning here and there.
The parties which have fielded these stars are not doing so for their stardom but their caste affiliations. Both film and political circles have been rife with rumours of how Sudeep was offered a ticket to contest from Ballari or Chitradurga while BJP had invited Upendra to contest from their party. Even Congress had eyed Sudeep as he hails from the Nayaka caste, a scheduled tribe. With some 10-12 stars hobnobbing with politicians and parties, it remains to be seen how many more will get tickets in this elections. This list of aspirants includes Jaggesh, Shashi Kumar, Rockline Venkatesh, Bhavana, Jayamala, among others.
In Karnataka, stardom has never played a big role in electoral politics and most entrants like Ambareesh, Umashree, B C Patil, Ramya, Shashi Kumar and others who have contested and won have played their caste card extremely well. Political scientist R L M Patil says, “Comparatively, stardom has had less impact in Karnataka. As it is they do not have much of political clout. In fact, Dr Rajkumar was wise enough not to enter politics. For that matter, MGR was trained ideologically by Periyar and Karunanidhi while in Karnataka, stars lack ideology as well as clout. Parties use them for popular image.”
Political watcher Mohan Ram says, “With some exceptions, most actors have been failures and very few have made their mark in Karnataka. Take the case of Upendra who thinks he can win elections on ‘likes or views’ on the social media. If you are unable to form or register a party, he should have had the courage of contesting as an independent and not run away from the field. On their own, most stars cannot cross four digits at the hustings.”
The Star Caste factor
Rather than star power, their castes have mattered in the state’s elections, a Congress leader opines. “Ambareesh, Umashree and others have got tickets on caste basis. Linguistic identity is not strong in here. Here, only caste matters and our party has given tickets based on that.” Patil says, “Linguistic identity has never been binding and for the Sandalwood stars, this has proved to be a problem. For many stars, their caste equations have never been clear and they have never been casteist. So, it has jeopardised their electoral chances.”