Mesmerising the audience is child’s play for them. Now, these popular performers face the challenge of wooing voters. And history is not on their side.
Can folk singer Mohammad Sadiq (Congress) make his rivals dance to his tune? Will comedian Bhagwant Mann (People’s Party of Punjab) have the last laugh? The January 30 assembly polls will answer these questions.
Performers have rarely done well in Punjab politics. The late Kuldeep Manak, popularly known as Kalian Da Badshah, contested from the Bathinda parliamentary seat in 1996 as an Independent. He not only lost the poll but also had to forfeit his security deposit.
Sufi singer and erstwhile Raj Gayak of Punjab Hans Raj Hans contested as a Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from the Jalandhar (reserved) Lok Sabha seat in 2009, only to lose to Congress candidate Mohinder Singh Kaypee.
Surinder Maan, an octogenarian from Bathinda, said people had thronged Manak’s rallies and cheered the legend as he sang his hit number ‘Lod payi te parkhi jau yaari yaaran di’ (friends’ loyalty will be put to the test). However, despite all the fan following, Manak, who also hailed from Bathinda district, got only 23,000-odd votes.
Though backed by a battery of singers, Hans lost by more than 26,000 votes.
After the losses, both Manak and Hans admitted that politics was not their cup of tea.
This time, the Congress has roped in Mohammad Sadiq to take on former bureaucrat Darbara Singh Guru (SAD) from the Bhadaur assembly constituency. Bhagwant Mann is pitted against a heavyweight — former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal — from the Lehra seat.
Another artiste in the fray is actor Arshad Dally, who featured in the Puneet Issar film I Am Singh. Dally, brother of Congress MLA Razia Sultana, is the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate from the newly-carved Amargarh constituency in Sangrur district.
According to Punjabi Sahitya Akademi president Gurbhajan Singh Gill, true artistes do not fit in the political world where money and muscle power rule. “Political parties usually field actors or singers only to cash in on their popularity. However, applause and accolades are hard to convert into votes,” he opined.
A few Punjabi performers have even rejected offers of the SAD or the Congress to contest the polls. Sources said the SAD was keen to field actor-singer Harbhajan Mann from Mansa, but he refused.
“Manpreet Badal has started a revolution to change the political system of Punjab,” said Bhagwant Mann. “That’s why a comedian like me, who never thought of becoming a politician, has got a chance to serve the people.”