In the run-up to the upcoming elections in Karnataka, prominent figures in the Kannada film industry have become actively involved in political campaigns. Kiccha Sudeep has thrown his support behind Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and has been designated the BJP's official star campaigner. Meanwhile, Darshan has been campaigning for his associates regardless of party affiliation, and Shiva Rajkumar has expressed his support for his family member, Madhu Bangarappa.
Political experts with whom THE WEEK spoke to feel that all the stars have different level of pull factor and have the capability of influencing different castes in the state. Sudeep, for instance, is a known face across India. However, it is not widely known that he hails from the Nayaka community. “The Nayaka community has traditionally been a strong supporter of the BJP in the past elections, and Sudeep's affiliation with the community is expected to be a significant advantage for the party in the upcoming elections. It is not limited to the Nayaka community alone, as it is also expected to benefit the BJP among other communities residing in rural areas of central Karnataka,” says political expert Ravikiran V.
On the other hand, Darshan, a popular superstar in Karnataka, has a significant fan base, particularly among the youth.
“Darshan is capable of generating enthusiasm and energy around a political campaign, and his presence at rallies can draw large crowds. Compared to Sudeep and Shiva Rajkumar, Darshan's strength lies in his ability to mobilise people to attend rallies and events. However, it is unclear how much of this support will translate into actual votes due to the high number of young voters in his base. Nonetheless, his political influence among the youth cannot be ignored, and he can play a significant role in energising political campaigns,” adds Ravikiran.
Experts point out that Shiva Rajkumar's case is unique as he is endorsing his relative Madhu Bangarappa, who was previously associated with the JD(S) and is now contesting in the upcoming elections. “Based on the ground reports, Madhu Bangarappa is considered a strong contender. Shiva Rajkumar's campaign support for a family member is expected to be a crucial factor in boosting his chances of success,” says Ravikiran.
On the other hand, Shiva Rajkumar's campaign efforts for his family member may not have a polarising effect across Karnataka. Unlike other celebrities, Shiva Rajkumar's political influence is not limited to any specific group or community.
Political analysts do point out that the involvement of film stars in politics is not a new phenomenon in the state, but this year's election has seen an unprecedented level of celebrity participation. “While the involvement of film stars in politics can bring much-needed attention to important issues, it is also argued that their influence is limited and that they can only bring crowds, not change the voting preferences of the electorate. The argument is not entirely without merit. It is true that the majority of voters in Karnataka, like in any other state, have their political preferences and are unlikely to change their minds based on a film star's endorsement. In fact, studies have shown that while film stars may have the ability to draw large crowds, their endorsement may not necessarily translate into votes for their preferred candidate,” Kiran Konkipudi, a political consultant, says.
This consultant, however, points out that the impact of film stars on political campaigns cannot be completely dismissed. “Film stars have a massive fan following, and their endorsement of a political candidate can sway some of their fans towards that candidate,” remarks Konkipudi.
Many film stars in Karnataka are also associated with particular regional identities, which can help political parties tap into local sentiments and build support in specific regions. For example, Yash, the star of the blockbuster film 'KGF', is a native of Hassan district in Karnataka and has been campaigning for the ruling BJP in the region. Similarly, Darshan, who hails from Mysuru, has been campaigning in the region.
“Film stars have the ability to raise awareness about important issues, inspire citizens to participate in the democratic process, and help political parties mobilise support in specific regions,” says Konkipudi.
As the Karnataka elections approach, it will be interesting to see how the involvement of film stars shapes the political landscape and whether their impact on the election results will be significant.