Do Star Wars at Hus­tings Sig­nal Po­lit­i­cal Bank­ruptcy?

Many celebri­ties have en­tered the fray this time in a state which al­ways took pride in field­ing thinkers

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Suresh.Varghese @times­group.com

Bengaluru: If politics is the last re­sort of scoundrels, then Ker­ala has a long line of celebri­ties vy­ing to earn the ep­i­thet. Never be­fore in the his­tory of Ker­ala politics have so many film, TV and sports celebri­ties jumped into the poll fray.

The fact that al­most all po­lit­i­cal par­ties had to rely on star power speaks of the po­lit­i­cal bank­ruptcy of the state. Says OK Johnny, a po­lit­i­cal ob­server: “Ker­ala is on a re­verse gear. It has be­come a po­lit­i­cally bank­rupt so­ci­ety. Who are the icons of Ker­ala youth to­day? None. There’s an ide­o­log­i­cal vac­uum and it breeds all fas­cist ten­den­cies.”

Ker­ala politics rarely ac­com­mo­dated those from the tin­sel world as the state boasts of a po­lit­i­cally con­scious pop­u­la­tion un­like neigh­bour­ing states Tamil Nadu and Andhra. At least that is what its gar­ru­lous politi­cians would want you to be­lieve as the rea­son for the state’s hith­erto dis­like for the glam­our world. But the re­cent trend has turned that claim on its head. Mukesh, a vet­eran movie ac­tor and host of a few pop­u­lar shows on tele­vi­sion, is the Left Front can­di­date in Kol­lam and Ja­gadeesh, his con­tem­po­rary and a pop­u­lar com­edy show judge on tele­vi­sion, is the Congress can­di­date tak­ing on another ac­tor­turned-politi­cian and for­mer min­is­ter in Congress gov­ern­ment KB Ganesh Ku­mar (now with the ri­val LDF for­ma­tion) in Pathana­pu­ram con­stituency. Another Na­tional Award win­ning ac­tor Suresh Gopi whose right lean­ings have been pretty ev­i­dent for a while now but who was re­luc­tant to dip his toe in the po­lit­i­cal wa­ters has been roped in by BJP as its star cam­paigner. Other small-time ac­tors like Bhee­man Reghu and Kol­lam Thu­lasi too have joined the band­wagon. The lat­est to join the fray is vet­eran ac­tor, known for her ‘amma’ roles, Kaviy­oor Pon­namma who launched BJP’s poll cam­paign in Manaloor con­stituency in Thris­sur. The saf­fron party that does not have a strong base in the state has also fielded crick­eter Sreesanth in state cap­i­tal. There are also some me­dia per­son­al­i­ties with po­lit­i­cal lean­ings who have en­tered the poll caul­dron. Like MV Nikesh Ku­mar and Veena Ge­orge who have been roped in by the Left Front, of course not with­out rum­blings within.

It is not that movie ac­tors have not had suc­cess in Ker­ala politics. Ganesh Ku­mar was the first ac­tor who won an Assem­bly elec­tion in the state in 2001. Ku­mar’s vic­tory in 2001 as Congress-led UDF can­di­date in Pathana­pu­ram was re­garded as the first vic­tory of an ac­tor in Ker­ala. But it was the re­sult of a po­lit­i­cal up­heaval rather than the tri­umph of his star value. He was fielded by his fa­ther R Balakr­ishna Pil­lai, the founder of his own Ker­ala Congress fac­tion. Pil­lai launched him as his po­lit­i­cal suc­ces­sor and he won the elec­tion and joined the then AK Antony cab­i­net as trans­port min­is­ter.

Vet­eran ac­tor In­no­cent was another ex­cep­tion. His vic­tory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tion as a Left-sup­ported can­di­date in Cha­lakkudy was a turn­ing point. It proved that a film­star can sail through with­out a god­fa­ther. But here too, Congress fac- tion­al­ism and Chris­tian politics worked in his favour as his op­po­nent Con­gress­man PC Chacko was mired in many con­tro­ver­sies. More­over, In­no­cent, be­ing a can­cer sur­vivor, se­cured a lot of sym­pa­thy votes too as he was a prom­i­nent fig­ure in the fight against can­cer.

For al­most three decades since the for­ma­tion of Ker­ala, film­stars stayed away from politics un­til the then chief min­is­ter K Karunakaran in­tro­duced ev­er­green hero Prem Nazir into Congress politics in 1987. But Nazir was clever enough to stay away from con­test­ing.

In Ker­ala, ac­tors have been con­sid- ered in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­fe­rior to po­ets, writ­ers, pro­fes­sors and lawyers, who were the rul­ing class in the state. Says OK Johnny: “Ker­alites have al­ways looked down upon Tamil Nadu politics and the roles film­stars played in elec­tions.” That ex­plains why po­lit­i­cal par­ties have kept Malay­alam film stars out of polls, he says.

It’s not that at­tempts had not been made in the past. In mid-80s, Lenin Ra­jen­dran, a film maker with Left lean­ings, con­tested twice against Congress can­di­date and for­mer Pres­i­dent KR Narayanan in Ot­tap­palam Lok Sabha seat but failed on both oc­ca­sions. Mu­rali, another ac­claimed ac­tor with Left lean­ings, dared to test the poll wa­ters of Alap­puzha in 1999 with lit­tle suc­cess.

On the con­trary, the state had a cul­ture of elect­ing men of let­ters and thinkers as law­mak­ers. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Jnanap­ith award win­ner SK Pot­tekkatt, Jus­tice VR Kr­ishna Iyyer, Prof Joseph Mun­dassery, Prof Suku­mar Azhikode, Prof ONV Ku­rup, Prof MK Sanu and many more in­tel­lec­tu­als cut­ting across po­lit­i­cal lines ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in elec­toral politics. In 1996, poet Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan de­feated vet­eran politi­cian MV Ragha­van. The only per­son who had some links to movies to have got elected was Ramu Kariat, maker of na­tional award­win­ning film Chem­meen in 1965 and an in­tel­lec­tual icon.

Crick­eter Sreesanth

Pop­u­lar co­me­dian Ja­gadeesh

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