Former Bollywood actors rule the roost in Indian elections  

Celebs have long since held sway in Indian politics

Entertainment Desk June 06, 2024

As controversial and right-wing actor-turned politician Kangana Ranaut wins her debut election and assumes power in her constituency representing the BJP, Indian media have hypothesised that the actor’s star power played a major hand in swaying voters. 

As a report by the Hindustan Times shows, Ranaut is by no means the first celebrity to have changed careers and begun a new life in politics. This election, with both Ranaut and her fellow actor-turned-politician Arun Govil having assumed office, Indian politics is no stranger to housing celebrities as MPs. 

As per Indian media reports, the country went to the polls from April 19 to June 1 in seven phases to elect the 543 members in the lower house of the Parliament, and many from the showbiz were in the fray, including returning star-politicians Hema Malini and Manoj Tiwari. 

Stars guide BJP to victory

As has already been well documented, Ranaut, who has often voiced controversial opinions in the public eye, had enjoyed a strong Bollywood presence during her acting career. A long-time supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ranaut was elected from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, her home state. Drawing in voters during her intense campaign, Ranaut defeated Vikramaditya Singh, the son of six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh and state Congress chief Pratibha Singh. Upon winning the election, Ranaut spoke about devoting her life to public service. 

In addition to Ranaut, the BJP also boasts Ramayan star Govil, who won the Meerut seat in Uttar Pradesh in a close race with Samajwadi Party's Sunita Yadav. Unlike Ranaut, who won by over 74,000 votes, Govil’s winning margin was much narrower. The former actor won by just over 10,000 votes, and media reports had predicted that his campaign may remain unsuccessful. However, Govil’s recognisable face from his acting days may have swung the votes in his favour. 
Joining the ranks of actor politicians, Hema Malini, another popular face from Indian cinema, was elected for a straight third term in Lok Sabha from Mathura against her nearest rival, Mukesh Dhangar of the Congress. Having cemented her place in her constituency, Malini’s third win is a hallmark of her popularity. 

Continuing to represent celebrities embarking on a different career pathway, Tiwari, a former Bhojpuri cinema star-singer and BJP candidate from North East Delhi, bested Congress rival Kanhaiya Kumar, a popular youth leader. Like Malini, this election proved to be Tiwari’s third win in a row. Adding to his distinction, Tiwari was the only sitting MP from Delhi retained by the BJP for the 18th Lok Sabha polls.

Adding to the list of Bhojpuri cinema stars, Ravi Kishan, yet another BJP contender, this time from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, was elected for a second consecutive term. Kishan defeated Kajal Nishad from the Samajwadi Party to retain his constituency.

With BJP proving its stronghold in the country, actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi won his debut election for the party in Kerala's Thrissur constituency. Gopi defeated VS Sunilkumar of the Communist Party of India to claim the Lok Sabha seat in the state.

Where BJP lost out

However, there were areas of India where other celebrity-led parties defeated the BJP. In Asansol in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress candidate veteran actor Shatrughan Sinha defeated his nearest BJP rival, S S Ahluwalia. Sinha, who has had political stints under the BJP and Congress, switched parties and joined the TMC in 2022 to contest in the by-election for the Asansol Lok Sabha constituency. Elsewhere, former actor and BJP MP Smriti Irani lost to Kishorilal Sharma of Congress in the Amethi constituency of Uttar Pradesh.

BJP politician and former actor Dinesh Lal Yadav, better known by his stage name Nirahua, was also bested by Samajwadi Party candidate Dharmendra Yadav in Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh seat. In addition, actor and Janasena Party chief Pawan Kalyan won the Pithapuram Assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh, defeating his YSR Congress Party rival Vanga Geetha.

As well as this, Bengali actor-turned-politician June Maliah of the TMC won from Medinipur in West Bengal by defeating Agnimitra Paul of the BJP in a tough fight. Not his first time entering the field of politics, in 2021, Maliah was elected as a member of West Bengal Legislative Assembly from Medinipur.

In West Bengal's Birbhum, TMC's three-term MP and actor Satabdi Roy secured a thumping victory over BJP's Debtanu Bhattacharya. In the state's Hooghly and Ghatal constituencies, the battle was between TMC and BJP's celebrity faces, although TMC prevailed in both. Actor and TMC candidate Rachna Banerjee won from Hooghly against actor Locket Chatterjee of BJP. This will be Banerjee's first term as a politician.

Finally, Dev Adhikary of TMC bested fellow actor and BJP's Hiran Chatterjee to hold on to his constituency Ghatal. This will be the actor-politician’s third term in office. 

For the past few decades, a slew of Indian film personalities have chosen to switch fields and enter into politics, such as Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, and even Amitabh Bachchan. 

If Indian media reports are any indication, star power has yielded rich results in the south of the country, churning out leaders who started out as actors, such as N T Rama Rao, M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa. Today, Kamal Haasan, Vijay, Prakash Raj, Bhagwant Mann, Paresh Rawal, Urmila Matondkar, and Govinda are among the popular faces active in politics today.

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