BJP's Secret Star-Power Survey: Madhuri to rock Pune; Gambhir, Sehwag to open in Delhi, Rohtak
Exclusive: Bollywood and cricket stars get one step closer to their bow in the electoral potboiler. Also starring: Sonu Nigam, Gurdas Mann, and others
A Pan-India survey by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party about the winning prospects for stars from Bollywood and cricket has strengthened the likely candidatures of A-listers like Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir for the 2019 polls.
While some of these names, including Madhuri's, have been making the rounds for a while now, the survey has zeroed in on Pune or Mumbai as the most apt battlefield for the Dhak-Dhak star.
Similarly, the survey — respondents included hard-core BJP supporters, neutrals and anti-BJP voters alike — has said that the swashbuckling Sehwag's prospects in Rohtak will be bright, while his stoic former India opening partner Gambhir will be best suited for a constituency from New Delhi.
Sources told mid-day that the surveyors provided respondents with the names of probable star candidates and asked them to rate their winning chances. In constituencies that the party currently holds, the questionnaire slotted them alongside sitting MPs and their prospects. In non-BJP seats, the survey featured the stars alongside other hopefuls.
As per the survey, the star-struck Gurdaspur constituency, a BJP fortress where the late Vinod Khanna held sway for many decades, might feature the political debut of bhangra king Gurdas Mann. Several reports have said the seat would go to Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, but he is a Canadian citizen and cannot contest elections in India.
The survey found that Marathi mulgi Madhuri will be a strong candidate from Pune where the sitting BJP MP Anil Shirole is on a weak wicket. Besides Madhuri, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar and state minister Girish Bapat were also favoured by the respondents.
Madhuri emerged popular among respondents in Mumbai, too. Sources told mid-day that she could contest one of the Mumbai seats depending on the competition in Pune and the seat-sharing arrangement with Shiv Sena (Party president Amit Shah met her in June). Sources said Nigam could be considered for a reserved constituency, but mid-day could not independently verify if the singer falls in any socially reserved category.
Good wicket in cow belt
While it is all Bollywood stars in the West, it is cricket all the way in the cow belt. It is common knowledge that cricketer Gambhir (who incidentally, announced his retirement on Tuesday evening) and his now-retired senior Sehwag are diehard BJP supporters.
Gambhir — who never misses an opportunity to stand up for the armed forces and is equally vocal in putting down what he thinks are anti-national voices; also on Tuesday , he took a dig at Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Twitter — was popular among respondents in New Delhi, where firebrand party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi is the sitting MP.
Sehwag — who famously took on 19-year-old student Gurmehar Kaur to brandish his right-wing credentials — could be fielded against Congress strongman Deepender Singh Hooda. Unlike Gambhir, Sehwag has a strong grassroots presence in Rohtak thanks to his world-class education institutions and social work.
The idea of fielding film and television stars worked well for the BJP in 2014. Saas-bahu serial actor Smriti Irani, who took on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi and lost in 2014, is the highest-ranking star in the BJP. Other star lawmakers include Hema Malini (Mathura), Kirron Kher (Chandigarh), Babul Supriyo (Asansol), Manoj Tiwari (north-east Delhi).
Two others — ex-cricketer Kirti Azad (Darbhanga) and Shatrughan Sinha (Patna Sahib) — have recently turned against the party leadership. While he refused to comment on the survey, BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said having celebrities on board was part of party's all-inclusive policy that has given it great leverage all these years.
"Achievers from various fields come with their own experiences and expertise. We have always welcomed them into the party fold and given them roles that suit their strengths. This has helped in governance and policy making. The party organisation too benefits from such successful people," he said.
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