Lok Sabha polls: Spectacle of sartorial styles and glamour in election summer | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Lok Sabha polls: Spectacle of sartorial styles and glamour in election summer

May 24, 2024 05:40 PM IST

Lok Sabha polls: When the big glitter and magic celebrities make their presence felt on the campaign trail, the star struck millions respond only as they can

Undoubtedly, the general elections bring the best out of celebrity candidates: best in terms of their sartorial styles, the way they smile, wave and cheer to waiting crowds, and the confidence they portray through their body language. It is a spectacle bringing big-city glamour onto the streets where the voting masses, in crumpled clothes, come face to face with political stars, just for a fleeting moment in the searing heat.

BJP MP Hema Malini, actor Govinda and Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra
BJP MP Hema Malini, actor Govinda and Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra

In Krishnanagar, West Bengal, where Mahua Moitra is contesting for the second time as Trinamool’s star-candidate, she is on the roads, well-turned out in striking handloom sarees, be it pastel shades of Ikat sarees, bright reds and turquoise blues of South cotton-blended sarees.

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Her oversized sunglasses complete the starry image as she reaches out to voters, shaking hands, hugging the women and young ones thrust onto her. Her speeches are loud and clear, "The BJP government has to go. It has to end. We are there to strengthen the hands of Mamata Di who has given her life for the safety and growth of West Bengal. Aashirbaad debo!" Applause is spontaneous and the masses clearly experience the thrilling 'I-saw-the-star' moment.

Having spent years on the Wall Street, before plunging into the thick of West Bengal politics, thanks to Mamata's strategy, Mahua Moitra has seen rough days in Parliament in 2023, being suspended by Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, and relentlessly harassed by the name-calling media. Even when she was fuming, after the suspension, before TV cameras, there was not a slip-up on her style quotient.

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Shobhaa De, the irrepressible writer-columnist wrote, “India is drunk on Mahua - a political star is born. Mamata Banerjee had shrewdly fielded astonishingly attractive female candidates in the 2019 election. At the moment three of them (referring to Mahua, Nusrat Jehan and Mimi Chakraborty) are hogging the limelight each time they show up to attend a session, clad in couture, or handpicked stylish sarees and looking like a million bucks as they twirl and pose for the cameras, like seasoned performers on the red carpet.”

Yusuf Pathan, the big-hitting cricket star, is another celebrity offering from Trinamool, parachuted into 2024 Lok Sabha polls, taking most political observers by surprise. Never known to be a public speaker, Yusuf's campaigns through Berhampore are marked by pit stops along mohallas, community centres where he meets voters.

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Dressed somberly in long kurtas and jeans, or a sporty T-shirt and jeans, Yusuf patiently signs cricket bats, shaking hands with young and old. Most often, he is accompanied by Irfan, his younger ebullient and talented cricketing star-brother who remarked as the campaign kicked off,"My brother does not speak much, he does all the work. I am the one who speaks!" It takes two Pathans to tango and ‘Khela hobe’ in the Bengal hinterland.

Having played the minority and glamour card bringing in the Pathans from faraway Gujarat, the Trinamool chief is hoping for a richer electoral harvest. Irfan is the eye-catcher in his bright blue and green T-shirts, with a stylish cap. His smile says it all.

"We belong not just to Gujarat but the entire country," he said. Yusuf of course has played for Kolkata Knight Riders and has won them laurels, ingratiating himself to a sports-crazy state.

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‘Khela hobe’ comes alive as Yusuf wipes his sweaty brow and listens attentively to the crowds who have gathered. "I have grown up helping my Maulvi father at the masjid; for years Irfan and I have swept, cleaned and kept the masjid ready for prayers. I know the importance of physical labour and I promise to work for you under the guidance of our leader Mamata-Di," he assured, wiping his sweaty brow.

The veteran celebrity stars of Parliament - Govinda in Mumbai, Hema Malini in Mathura and serving minister Smriti Irani in Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi – continue to be crowd-pullers.

Govinda, once the giant killer of 2004 general elections for Congress (he defeated BJP’s veteran Ram Naik with 50,000 votes in Mumbai North seat), was expected to secure the Mumbai North ticket. Instead, Shiv Sena chief minister Eknath Shinde gave Govinda the charge to campaign across Maharashtra and be the crowd-puller that he is.

On joining the Shiv Sena, Govinda said, "it is a blessing of God. I thought I would not enter politics again." Quickly building bridges with the Sena this time around, Govinda also revealed that his parents had a good relationship with former Shiv Sena supremo, Balasaheb Thackeray.

Dressed in canary yellow trousers and shocking magenta or black sequined jackets, Govinda continues to dance to evergreen numbers which carry no social or political message: it is all about "Main bhelpuri kha raha tha..." Crowds in halls, at rallies adore the evergreen performer whose persona has grown over the years through TV reality shows.

As a politician, Govinda has yet to earn his stripes either in Parliament, Maharashtra Assembly or in crowded streets of Mumbai where legends like Sunil Dutt spent productive years, making a difference in the lives of ordinary people.

‘Dream girl’ Hema Malini in Mathura is a composite picture of dignity and class, commencing her speeches with “Jai Radhe! Jai Radhe!” chants, going on to invoke an entire pantheon ending with ‘Bharat Mata’. 

In gorgeous printed silk sarees, or ornate South Indian silks, with her well-coiffured hair and choice of elegant expensive jewellery, she is the unmistakable star who commands attention and awe of her voters. In some posters, celebrating the festivals, she is clad in heavy gold jewellery, posing like a minor Goddess herself.

It is Hema Malini’s third election in Mathura. In the 2019 elections, she secured over 60% of votes, getting more than 670,000 votes. In 2024, she is facing Congress challenger Mukesh Dhangar, a local businessman who is no match for the poise and charisma of the ‘dream girl’.

Critics pointed out that Hema Malini attended only half of the 17th Lok Sabha sessions, posing 105 questions, out of which only 58 were raised independently. In election speeches too, she constantly refers to drains, sewers and approach roads built. Barely 3% of her MP local area development funds were utilised for educational purposes.

Before she assumed charge as Union Minister for women and child development, former TV star Smriti Irani was Union Minister of textiles, her choice of sarees reflected the rich spectrum of Indian handlooms. In Parliament and out of it, Indian textiles could not have found a more suitable brand ambassador who could carry herself elegantly and officiously.

In Amethi, contesting for the second time to save the pivotal prestigious seat of Uttar Pradesh, Smriti, under pressure of hectic electioneering and lambasting the Congress, portrays a colourful picture of grace, wrapped as she is in bright reds, yellow, and mustard-coloured sarees, capturing the festive mood of the poll season.

Her popularity remains unabated, more so as she is the face of the government in debates. On TV debates, and interviews, her sartorial style, bindi and large spectacles lend Smriti Irani a media-friendly persona; she never disappoints as she goes hammer and tongs against the Congress and “how little they have done for Amethi,” she roars during speeches.

Detractors are quick to point out that out of Smriti Irani’s MPLAD of 9.8 crore, only 2.08 crore has been spent, mostly on road construction. “Ironically, she has not designated any funds for women and child welfare in Amethi. All recommended work is dated to April 2024, and all of it is incomplete. About 63.4 per cent of her work that is sanctioned is still ongoing,” it was reported.

Long after the 2024 elections become history, images of these star-candidates and their stylish campaigns will remain etched in public memory.

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