Mumbai bar girls to spice up UP campaign
Out of work Mumbai bar girls have chosen a new place to show their talent: Uttar Pradesh. They are being hired by political parties to dance - at election rallies in India's most populous state.
The nubile dancers have been booked to join the campaign bandwagon and liven up the loudspeaker-stage-speech routine. A bevy of women, with loud make-up and 'jhatkas' in place have already started descending on Uttar Pradesh.
With the seven-stage assembly elections beginning April 7, several parties are making a beeline here to "book" the girls to add spice to the campaign, hoping to translate the crowds the women attract into votes.
"Maharashtra may have shut down the dance bars but Mumbai's bar girls have found a new stage, and it is paying too," said Ranjan Bhai, a self-proclaimed manager of a group of bar girls.
Ranjan was also responsible for bar girls performing at election rallies in Punjab. He said his troupe had been booked in advance for the Uttar Pradesh electoral battle.
"We got our bookings even before we performed at some of the Punjab rallies. We have been booked for performing at several rallies across Uttar Pradesh," Ranjan said.
Confirming this, Mumbai-based Bharatiya Bargirls' Union (BBU) president Varsha Kale said: "The girls are flooded with requests and are being paid Rs.110,000-150,000 per show. The money is usually shared by a group of 10."
But BBU, an association formed to protect the bar girls' rights, is not willing to reveal names of politicians who hired them, fearing that the women would lose this source of income too.
"I cannot divulge the names of politicians or the parties. All I can say is that the demand for the bar girls is rising," Kale said.
And politicians are definitely not complaining.
"Earlier we tried singers and folk dancers to woo voters, but the bar girls have added more fizz to our campaign. Voters across the social strata identify well with the catchy Bollywood numbers to which they perform," said a politician who was here to book the girls, on condition of anonymity.
"Since the Maharashtra government's ban on dance bars, bar girls have performed in election rallies in Punjab and Bihar. They are also in great demand in West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat," Kale noted.
"Besides, they are also paid to perform at festivals and family functions."
In July 2005, the Maharashtra assembly adopted a bill to ban dance bars across the state.
Prior to the ban, Mumbai had around 1,500 dance bars, which contributed Rs.15 billion to the state exchequer and employed nearly 50,000 girls, mostly from outside Maharashtra and some from outside the country.
The bars usually had women entertaining customers looking for food, liquor and sometimes sex. In many of these places, dancers donned skimpy outfits and mingled with the customers while dancing to film music.