BHUBANESWAR: Are the “stars” losing their spell over political parties in Odisha?
Actors have transited from cinema to politics successfully and Odisha is no stranger to the trend. Elsewhere, they continue to be favourites but in Odisha, not many find a place this time. Not as candidates, at least.Though over two dozens of actors, singers and music directors have joined political parties of their choice, only three, two from BJP and one from BJD, are in the fray this time.
Ollywood superstar of the yesteryear Aparajita Mohanty is BJP’s candidate from Bhubaneswar (North) Assembly seat while Pinky Pradhan is contesting from Digapahandi. The ruling BJD has pitted leading Odia actor Anubhav Mohanty against four-time MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda for the prestigious Kendrapara constituency.
Known for his appeal among the youth and his speech, Anubhav rose to fame as a star campaigner for BJD during 2014 General Elections when he had addressed over 100 rallies.
The party later rewarded him with a Rajya Sabha seat.
The regional party, however, dropped popular actors like sitting Berhampur MP Siddhanta Mohapatra and Korei MLA Aakash Das Nayak besides comedian Papu Pompom aka Tatwaprakash Satpathy, who had unsuccessfully contested from Champua in the last elections. Similarly, the grand old party Congress has not fielded a single film star this election.
“Unlike South Indian States and West Bengal, cine stars may not create magic in Odisha politics. They may have a great fan following but people here do not think actors can become good politicians and fight for their causes. History is testimony to it,” says Santosh Sarangi, a retired Professor of Political Science.
BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra echoes similar sentiment. He believes though people from various professions join BJD, it does not look at people from the film industry who can be projected in political considerations.
“Odisha has never voted for actors and actresses like it happens in South India. Few among them are exceptions as they have already established themselves. People here vote for stability and good governance. For the party, the only star is Naveen Patnaik,” he added.All three parties have, however, roped in many cine stars to add glamour to campaigning and canvassing for their respective candidates.
Along with Anubhav, Akash and two-time MP Siddhanta, the BJD list included Prashanta Nanda, Satyabrata Tripathy, Arindam Ray and Srimayee Mishra. Besides, singer Trupti Das, TV actress Elina Dash and another actor of yesteryear Munna Khan are also in the party.
Apart from Pinky and Aparajita, the BJP list of star campaigners has six cine stars from Odisha, prominent among them are Mahasweta Ray, Mihir Das, Ashrumochan Mohanty, Sritam Das, Anu Choudhury and comedian Harihar Mohapatra.
Congress has roped in actress politician Khushboo, Nagma and Raj Babbar. Last time, the party had fielded actor Bijay Mohanty from Bhubaneswar and Aparajita from Cuttack Lok Sabha constituency. After they lost elections, Aparajita switched loyalty while Bijay snapped ties.
The trend of Odia actors joining politics started in 1972 when Sarat Pujari fought on an Utkal Congress ticket. He lost and never contested again. Later, singer and music director Akshay Mohanty, Prafulla Kar and comedian Dhira Biswal contested, but all lost.
Not that film-stars’ pull can be completely ignored. There are a lot of similarities between politics and acting. Appearance does matter in both the professions. Odia film stars have immense influence over rural population who form a considerable vote bank for all parties.
That may have been a reason why Anubhav has been thrown into the ring to take on BJP heavyweight Jay Panda.In neighbouring WB though, Mamta Banerjee thinks otherwise. Of 42 Lok Sabha constituencies, Didi has fielded six Tollywood actors. Last time she had nominated five and all won the elections.