It’s not really the Ganga-kinarewallas versus the Madras cut specialists. Mind it!
Because when those from the other side of the Vindyas came and stayed and rose to great heights in politics – mainly in the south -- the impatient north Indian always went back to what he had been doing.
As in the rest of the country, Uttar Pradesh, too, has seen parties pick up stars for easy victories. But hardly any one of them – right from Amitabh Bacchchan to Sanjay Dutt – stuck to the grime and grit of politics.
Some couldn’t take the risks involved, some found it not too rewarding and some were genuinely shocked by the holds – because nothing is barred in politics. Unlike their entry, their exits are, normally, less noisy.
What’s more, the voter and the ubiquitous party worker have started protesting. Finding the stars to be always indifferent as public representatives, there are already demands for politicians, and not stars, as the people’s representatives.
The party workers’ reason is obvious: “It hurts us when we are ignored after years of hard work and they get tickets in a jiffy,” said an SP leader on condition of anonymity.
The story began in 1984 in UP, with Bachchan. Pushed by childhood friend Rajiv Gandhi, he took the plunge and fought from his hometown, Allahabad, and defeated former UP chief minister Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna.
Bachchan managed to end Bahuguna’s career, but in three years his own adventure ended as his name got dragged into the Bofors scandal. Not used to facing such ferocious attack – not even on screen, as he himself once admitted – he vowed never to return to the cesspool that is called politics.
His MP wife Jaya Bachchan said in a book by a Lucknow journalist: “He was so averse to politics that even after decades when Netaji (SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav) offered him a ticket to contest the LS polls again, Amitabh refused point-blank.”
Nearly 25 years later, another Srivastav – the Bachchans’ real surname is Srivastav – who incidentally began his career as a stand-up comedian mimicking Bachchan had to leave politics, not intending to come back.
SP candidate Raju Srivastava returned his ticket for Kanpur, citing non-cooperation from party workers.
Then, there is Raj Babbar, who hails from UP’s Tundla. He made his debut gloriously by contesting against none other than the BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lucknow in 1996. He lost, but decently.
Then he moved to Agra and won it twice as an SP candidate in 1999 and 2004. But after Agra was declared a reserved seat he moved to Fatehpur Sikri and lost in 2009.
Then he moved to the Congress, but did not contest in the 2009 elections. The Congress later fielded him against Dimple Yadav for the Firozabad by-poll. Babbar won, but his prolonged absence from the constituency caused problems again. Now, Babbar is uncertain about his political future.
Former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin won from Moradabad convincingly in 2009 on a Congress ticket, but voters in the constituency soon declared him an ‘absconder’. Now, he is likely to be a Congress candidate from West Bengal.
Another former cricketer Mohammed Kaif has donned a khadi cap. He is the Congress candidate from Phoolpur, which once was Jawaharlal Nehru’s seat. A section of Congress workers have already started saying that they don’t want stars, they want politicians.
Then there is Jaya Prada. Despite being a two-time MP, she is grappling with her political career. She won the Rampur seat twice in 2004 and 2009 as an SP candidate, but faced stiff opposition from the SP’s Muslim poster-boy, Azam Khan during the first tenure itself.
In the second tenure, the opposition intensified as Khan was joined by other SP leaders. Later, the SP expelled her and Amar Singh, the estranged confidant of Mulayam Singh Yadav, together. Now, she is a Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate from Bijnore.