The rise of star power in politics

In 2019, actor Akshay Kumar was invited to interview Prime Minister Narendra Modi


Actors have joined politics since time immemorial when Prithviraj Kapoor became the first MP after being nominated to the Rajya Sabha in the 1960s. Since then, several film stars like MGR, Jayalalithaa, Jaya Bachchan, Sunil Dutt, Urmila Matondkar and Sunny Deol, to name a few, have joined the fray. So, what is it that attracts actors to the world of politics? It could very well be fame; the next stage in the career for someone who has spent time under the fickle spotlight. 

Then, of course, there's the power that comes with the role. Enjoying a vote-bank, mainly made up of their fan base, is just an added perk. The stars who join politics are often those who are aware of their charisma and ability to attract crowds. A lot of times, political parties approach actors, banking on their popularity. Congress approached Amitabh Bachchan and in 1984, he won the Lok Sabha elections from Allahabad. In 2004, his wife, Jaya Bachchan joined the Samajwadi Party and became a member of the Rajya Sabha. She was re-elected three times thereafter.

In 2019, actor Akshay Kumar was invited to interview Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The interview underlined Bollywood's proximity with the Modi-led government. PR masterstroke or not, the interview certainly garnered a lot of attention. It created a lot of buzz on social media and hashtags like #CelebritieswithNamo and #ModiWithAkshay trended. 

Then there's the question of the participation of celebrities in the parliament. While Jaya Bachchan is known to be vocal, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who served a term as a Rajya Sabha MP from 2012 to 2018, was criticised for his lack of participation in the Parliament-- be it attendance, asking questions or speeches. The same was said of actor Rekha, who served as MP during the same period.

Regardless, actors have always eyed politics to be a viable second innings or a side hustle. And now, actor Vijay has decided to join the race. He announced that he would contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2026. His party is yet to be named. In the South, actor Kamal Haasan announced his party Makkal Needhi Maiam in 2018. They are yet to win a Lok Sabha or a Tamil Nadu Legislative election. 

Apart from MG Ramachandran, who served as the CM of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa has had a successful run as a politician. She served as CM of the state for six terms. NT Rama Rao from Andhra Pradesh founded TDM or the Telugu Desam Party in 1982. He has served as CM of the state three times. Telugu star Chiranjeevi founded the Praja Rajyam Party in 2008. In 2009, the party won 18 out of 294 seats with a vote share of over 16 per cent. In 2011, it merged with Congress and the star was appointed the Minister of Tourism. So, it is safe to say, that star power, at least in the South, can secure votes. 

Coming back to national politics, PM Narendra Modi attended actor Priyanka Chopra's wedding in 2018. in reciprocation, the actor posted a heartfelt message on Instagram to her 40 million followers. Recently, the Prime Minister attended the wedding of the daughter of BJP leader Suresh Gopi in Guruvayoor. In attendance were superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal. Gopi, who has previously campaigned for LDF and UDF candidates, joined BJP in 2016. He is expected to contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The gesture by the Prime Minister in attending the wedding might very well be a political statement. 

Whether or not, we care to admit, there are merits of having celebrities joining political parties. Nearly everyone covets glamour and our politicians aren't immune. Inviting a celebrity to join a political party, has almost always happened closer to elections. A case in point is Bengali stars Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan and Mun Mun Sen being inducted into TMC just before the 2019 general elections and Akshay Kumar's interview with the Prime Minister, which was aired just as the 2019 elections commenced.

Be it Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Dharmendra or Govinda, politics has always attracted celebrities and that won't change-- ever!

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