From the glitz and glamour of Bollywood to the heat and dust of elections. Actors Gul Panag and Kirron Kher are trying to shun their celebrity tag to claim another -- of being “Chandigarh’s daughter”.
In contrast to her on-screen presence, the glamour quotient is missing in the attire and campaign style of Panag. Dressed in a plain salwar-kameez and the Aam Aadmi Party cap, her poll campaign is high on symbolism.
On Wednesday, she started by an early morning visit to Khatkar Kalan in Nawanshahr district, the birthplace of martyr Bhagat Singh, and later held a road show at Maloya village after a door-to-door campaign in its market area. Though some young volunteers follow the former Miss India wearing AAP caps, her small cavalcade comprises mainly family and friends besides a few AAP workers and women volunteers.
Riding an SUV driven by her cousin, she walks the streets of the village addressing middleaged women as Bhabhiji and elderly ones as Mataji, asking them to sweep out corruption by pressing on the AAP button. To the men, she smiles and appeals with folded hands: “Jinhone is desh ko barbad kiya, unhe dubara is desh ki zimedari mat sompiye (Do not pass the reins of this country to those who destroyed it).
Accompanying her are her poll manager, Simran, a cousin who has flown from Mumbai, and her aunt, who lament there is little money to campaign. Her husband is helping manage the party office. “She called her family and friends after winning the nomination and we are all here leaving our children and jobs,” says Simran.
But Panag claims elections are fought by passion, not funds. “We don’t have resources and PR cells like big parties but our workers are dedicated. All I have is my two feet and I can’t rest till the elections,” she says.
On her vision for Chandigarh, she points to the streets of the village. “Does it look a part of posh Chandigarh? I have a problem with the term inclusive growth. It means no equal opportunity for education, jobs and basic facilities. Chandigarh’s infrastructure is crumbling under the growing population.”
Though she avoids hitting out at her political opponents directly, she takes a dig at Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal by talking of “those who got clean chit despite indulging in corruption” and BJP’s Kirron Kher as a “mother figure who is contesting at an age people retire”.
Other than their Bollywood and Chandigarh connection -they were both born in the city --army background and dimples, there is little in common between the two stars.
Kher, who landed in Chandigarh on Tuesday to black flags shown by a deeply divided BJP unit, started her poll campaign by first meeting the city’s industrialists and traders at a hotel. After presidents of many associations presented her bouquets, she bears the long speeches with a smile and at times humour.
Unlike Panag, the glamour quotient is not totally missing. Dressed in a cotton sari and her trademark bindi and fashion accessories; again unlike Panag, there are no family and friends in tow. She arrives late at the venue keeping the party leaders waiting. She starts by hitting out at Bansal not for corruption but for lack of development. She does not harp on power to the common man but to BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi.
“I believe prosperity trickles down. If the business prospers, the country would have more jobs and higher incomes. What has Bansal done for Chandigarh being an MP and a cabinet minister? Give one more seat to Modi and see where he takes the country, she says. She avoids an attack on AAP and Gul, reserving it for Twitter. “I have responded to her tweets. In the coming time, I will talk on AAP and then they will have no arguments,” Kher says.