India, politics, Bollywood, Narendra Modi

At an election rally in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a popular Bollywood actress entertains people with the dialogues of one of her films.

She then appeals them to vote for the Congress Party.  

Senior journalist Priyadarshan says Bollywood actors and actresses are often used as vote gather. 

“Their voice has an importance and it goes straight to the people because films have a huge influence on our personality and society and they play a major role in shaping our opinions and perceptions.”

Despite this, film stars are still largely considered to be indifferent to politics. 

But things have begun to change in this year’s election… 

Screenwriter Anjum Rabali is among a group of filmmakers, actors, writers and singers that issued an appeal to reject communal politicians and vote for secular parties.

“The central notion that really defined Indian nation and that makes all of us in this diverse sort of melting pot feel comfortable is secularism. And that is nowhere in public discourse. This was what was bothering us. The letter actually was aimed at reminding the voters that when you go out and exercise your choice it is important that you also reflect on this.”

The group has not named any party or candidates as communal… but for actress Nandita Das, the message is clear. 

“In many ways it is a call to vote against Mr. Modi and all other parties that have in the past and continue to profess communalism and divide people on communal lines. So there is no shying away from this.

Narendra Modi is Prime Ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist party and the main opposition BJP.

He is accused of facilitating the 2002 communal riots that killed nearly 2000 people mostly Muslims in the Western state of Gujarat.

The appeal to vote against him has evoked counter a campaign with many Bollywood personalities openly supporting and seeking vote for him.

“They have been open Modi –bashers. Fine, that is your mind,” says film director Ashok Pandit. 

“But why are you using and exploiting words like communalism and secularism and behaving like a politician? We today have openly come out in support of Modi and are openly saying that we want Narendra Modi to be the Prime Minister. It’s my choice; I feel my country is safe in the hands of Narendra Modi.”

Another Modi supporter filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar says the appeal is an attempt to polarize the Industry and tarnish its secular image.

“Did anyone go them with a pro-Modi campaign and ask them to vote for him? Why are you telling the industry who to vote for, they are intelligent people and they know who deserves their vote and with this campaign you are only trying to divide the industry and question its secular fabric.

The BJP says there is a pro-Modi wave in the country and a large section of the local media is backing this claim.

Most of the opinion polls conducted by media organizations predict an easy win for Modi… although many question their accuracy. 

But the possibility of Modi becoming the next Prime Minister has evoked fear. 

A group of Indian-origin intellectuals and artists in the UK recently voiced their concern that Modi’s win will not be good sign for India’s future.

 “What is being said is not about supporting a party or opposing another, the cultural groups are not sympathizers of any party neither do they have any agenda,” says Pradeep Sourabh,an author and columnist.

“They are raising a genuine concern it’s about secularism that holds this country together and it’s about the danger the country is facing, the danger of a possible social breakup, everyone from the cultural world is talking about this because they can see it.”


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