A disastrous Lok Sabha poll foray has left a down-on-luck Bhojpuri film and television actor with 6,430 votes and a Rs 2.5-lakh debt she has no means to repay.
Rina Rani, 40, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) nominee for the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat in north Bihar, did something out of the ordinary when she made her parliamentary poll debut earlier this month.
She exhibited grit and gumption to take on RJD’s Prabhunath Singh and JD (U) Manoranjan Singh, each facing so many cases it required extra sheets of paper to mention them in their election affidavits.
But after logging “thousands of kilometers” and spending “eight-nine lakh rupees” on an election campaign lasting six weeks, all Rani has is an abysmal tally of votes and a large debt to show for her efforts.
While part of her campaign funds came from donation and the party, she still ended up borrowing around Rs 2.50 lakh to meet the expenses.
At 6,430, the Bhojpuri starlet’s votes tally was the second lowest among the 10 candidates in Maharajganj and worked out to just a quarter of 23,404 votes polled by another debutant, ‘none of the above’ (NOTA).
The Maharajganj seat was won by BJP’s Janaradan Singh Sigriwal who polled 3,20,753 votes to score over sitting RJD MP Prabhunath (2,82,338 votes) and JD (U)’s Manoranjan (1,49,483 votes).
“I am disappointed my vote share was so low, despite the effort I put in. Then, there this debt I am left with. Unless I find work fast, I may have to sell land owned by my farmer-husband to square it up,” Rani told HT on Sunday.
Money is surely a concern, considering Rani -- as her election affidavit revealed -- has not filed her income tax returns for the past three years “as I did not earn enough for my income to attract any tax liability”.
The last income tax return she filed was for 2010-11 when she declared an income of just about Rs 30,000 per month, less than what many junior artistes earn.
The actor said she has acted in around 20-25 films in Bhojpuri, Hindi and Maithili, among several languages, including Bhojpuri hits like ‘Rangbaaz Balma’ and ‘Goonda Raj’.
She also acted in Doordarshan’s Bhojpuri drama ‘Sakhi’ and Colors channel tele-series ‘Phulwa’, made on the life of ‘bandit queen’ (late) Phoolan Devi.
But she has had no work for quite a while.
“After the conclusion of the election, I have got a call from Colors, offering me a role in a Hindi drama they intend to produce. I am interested as I really need the money. But nothing is decided as yet,” Rani said.
But neither her dismal election performance nor the TV offer has deterred Rani’s resolve to be in politics for good.
“My next port of call is the Bihar assembly poll due next year. I am already spending all my time bonding with the Maharajganj assembly seat electorate,” said Rani, who remains parked in her home in the constituency.
Rani plans to continue acting as a means to support herself financially, while she tries to make her mark in the rough and tumble of Bihar politics.
“It is a struggle but I am game,” said Rani, a law graduate.
A self-confessed tomboy who rode a motorcycle in her younger days, Rani said she once fought her school headmaster who did not want her to talk to boys in her class.
Active in Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal stir and close to AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, Rani’s commitment to the party, however, appears to have undergone a dilution.
“Let’s see how things go in the next one year. Then I’ll take a call on any party,” she said.
Maharajganj was one of 22 seats that the BJP won, out of a total of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. In addition, its allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) won six and three seats, respectively.
That left the RJD-led UPA with only seven seats and the ruling JD (U) with just two seats, down from 20 the latter had won in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.