Fading stars party hard
At a dinner hosted by Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for film stars supporting the Congress, he ended up red-faced when the stars revealed their true political colours. Jeetendra and Suresh Oberoi pledged support for the Congress and Prime Minister Vajpayee in the same breath. Shinde was in a spot. But most Congressmen at the dinner were laughing.
"They have no ideology or commitment to any party. They don't know what we or the BJP or any other party stands for," says Murli Deora, former Mumbai Congress chief who had "handled" film stars for years.
Incidentally, a week after praising Vajpayee at a Congress dinner, both stars formally joined the BJP. Calling film stars to campaign is nothing new. But, says Deora, stars in the past were committed to ideology — Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar to the Congress while Balraj Sahni to the communists.
"But now," says a senior politician, "it is only for publicity". One film-star-turned politician, who may be an exception, is Sunil Dutt. Plunging into politics with a spirit of social service, Dutt never lost an election and is a formidable Congress candidate in Mumbai.
Dutt laughs at the BJP star parade. "If the BJP is confident of winning and if India is really shining, they would not have needed stars to pull crowds," he says.
But what attracts the stars to political parties?
Years ago when the Congress wanted singer Kishore Kumar to campaign for the party, he gracefully declined. But when he received a veiled threat of an income tax raid from then Mumbai Congress chief Rajni Patel, Kishore was campaigning with gusto at the next Congress rally.
Insiders also hint at money being the reason for stars suddenly discovering their political consciences.
“These stars don’t even cut ribbon for free. Do you think they will give so much of their time for free,” asks a PR professional.