Super stars, cricket stars and TV Personalities shine in Kerala Assembly Polls 2016

Light, camera…action the cameras have started rolling for the forthcoming Kerala assembly elections (May 16, 2016). Suresh Gopi, Mukesh, Siddique, Siddique, KPAC Lalitha, Kollam Thulasi, Rajasenan, former cricketer Sreeshant, MV Nikesh Kumar, Veena George,..are in thelong  list of stars from films, television and sports world contesting the 2016 Kerala Assembly polls.

Glamorous stars stars are the latest political candidates to enter the ongoing election frenzy in Kerala, home to large number of Keralite expatriates in the UAE/Guil region. They are actively discussing the forthcoming polls and the pros and cons of stars studded election through various social media channels  Kerala will go to polls to select 140 members of the state assembly on May 16, 2016 and the count down has already started.

Unlike South Indian states like Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, which had Chief Ministers from the film industry, Kerala has never been a fertile political soil for superstars and the election results only would prove whether such stars have any major impact on the electorate.

A long list of film and TV stars with known and unknown political affiliations are being lined up by three different coalition groupings to achieve maximum number of seats in the state assembly. While a few  film stars have contested and won elections in the past, during the 2016 election prominent film personalities are lined up by the Congress, BJP and communist lead in a tripolar fray in the state.  M V Nikesh Kumar, son of a leading politician MV Raghavan and Editor of Reporter TV, Veena George, a popular TV Anchor are other stars roped in by the LDF as candidates.

While the BJP, which is yet to get its first assembly seat in an election in Kerala, is trying to encash the popularity and glamour of Suresh Gopi, the action hero in many crime thriller movies, as a star contestant in Thiruvananthapuram, the Congress party lead United Democratic Front has is fielding two film stars, Siddique and Jagadish as candidates. Innocent, an ace comedian and character actor, who thrashed PC Chacko a veteran Congress Member of parliament in Chalakkudy, Trichur district in the 2014 Parliament election. While America had film stars like Ronald Regan as president or Arnold Schwarznegger as California Governor, there were at least 9 Bollywood actors/actresses for the BJP and Congress, 29 stars campaigned for these parties in 2014. Stars are roped in to influence voters because political parties have run out of issues to contest polls, according to experts.

“There is no harm in having the right politically conscious candidates from film or sports field. Actors who are aware of the people’s mindset and  problems are always welcome in politics. But in real life they should become like antiheroes in their movies.” “Politics is a big game of acting but actors should focus on acting.”

“ If they can solve the masses problems they are welcome but film stars who are fielded as candidate only because of their stardom and glamour may not be able to handle peoples problems. They should be able to fulfill the election promises as full time peoples representatives,” said K K Moideen Koya, an expatriate actor from the UAE. “Cricket is just a physical game and the sports stars prove their physical strength and not their mental and emotional appeal.  A film star like K Ganesh Kumar has never proved us wrong. He was good in the movies as well as in his role as an efficient cabinet minister. In Kerala, glamourous politics of Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh version will not succeed,” he added.

Sukumaran, the hero of yesteryears and the father of two stars currently doing well in Malayalam film industry viz Prithviraj Sukumaran and Sukumaran, was a Congress party member. The communist lead Left Democratic Front (LDF) is fielding Mukesh, KPAC Lalitha and Ganesh Kumar, in various constituencies. LDF experiment with Innocent, an ace comedian of Malayalam film industry, who has won a Parliament seat in the 2014 election is continued in the election -- LDF was also considering stars like Nedumudi Venu and Sreenivasan. However, it had to reverse its choice of KPAC Lalitha due to strong opposition from the party cadres whose chances of getting assembly seats is dimmed by the star encroachment. While political parties are going for more votes, they are neglecting established party workers, they alleged through protest meetings and posters.

The BJP is also trying to rope in Kollam Thulasi, Bheeman Reghu and cricketer Shree santh, who is out of cricketing after a match fixing investigation. Many eyebrows were raised when Suresh Gopi announced his decision to join the BJP last year and was reportedly promised a high profile chairmanship of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which never happened. The actor who once dreamed of joining the Narendra Modi cabinet is projected as the star BJP candidate from Kerala, though the hero of nearly 200  movies, lost part of his fan following due to his joining the saffron political party. Some of his latest movies did not do well in the box offices, allegedly due to his outspoken support for the BJP in a politically sensitive state.

“While neighboring states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have got film stars as chief ministers and ministers like Jayalalitha and NT Rama Rao, Kerala was always immune from this trend. With the help of stars like Suresh Gopi, BJP trying its luck to win the first ever assembly seat in the state. This also marks the deterioration of ideology based quality politics for which the state stands out in South India,” said Jose George, an Indian expatriate in the UAE.

The BJP is fielding director Rajasenan and actor Kollam Thulasi and is also considering Suresh Gopi and cricketer Sreeshant to fight the next election. Suresh Gopi did not take part in the recent local body’s election, apparently because he did not get the NFDC Chairmanship. BJP leadership is using their link to the former cricketer’s father in law in Madhya Pradesh to rope in the young cricket star, who has come out of a murky controversy but could never go back to international cricket. He would now bat from the Ernakulam or Thrippounithura assembly seat for the BJP.

Even the ever green hero of Malayalam films, Prem Nazir (Abdul Khader), who has acted in more than 750 movies could not make it big in politics. Even though he joined the Contress party in the late 1970s, he did not contest in elections, realizing the Malayali mindset. Sheela, the heroine of Prem Nazir movies has joined Congress party but did not make any impact on the electorate. Ramu Karyat, director of Chemmeen, an award winning Malayalam films contested and won polls in 1964 representing the Nattika constituency with the support of communist parties. Late Bharath Murali, a popular actor contested the parliament election with LDF support, but did not succeed against VM Sudheeran. Lenin Rajendran, another film director who contested on behalf of the LDF, failed against KR Narayanan (who later become the Indian President).

“Involvement of film stars and  cultural heroes is a welcome trend because people from different walks of life are coming to electoral politics. Actors like Mukesh and KPAC Lalitha have worked in politics for many years. They hail from a left political family and they express their opinion openly. There are some actors who support corruption and they  are roped in by some political parties,” says Narayanan Veliyancode, LDF supporter. “Actors like Suresh Gopi are trying to foment communal hatred and make personal gains and positions. He should use his popularity and glamour for communal harmony and not communal hatred,”  Narayanan added.

“Assemly and Parliament are not easy playground for film stars or cricket stars. To become a Member of parliament or Member of Legislative Assembly, candidates must have the ability to make legislation for the country. Elected members representing a parliamentary constitutency should be able to speak fluently in the Parliament or assembly,” said Punnakkan Mohammed Ali, General Secretary, Indian Culture Arts and Society (INCAS) Dubai. “A film star elected last year to the Indian Parliament cannot speak any other language other than Malayalam. In the legislature, elected candidates must be able to make their points for which educated people must be elected. To gain more votes parties are just fielding glamourous stars, which is not a healthy trend. Voters will cast their votes to elect  able and efficient candidates. Only because of stardom people need not vote for a useless star,” a Congress leader said.