Sources say the party will also reach out to regional film personalities, social media influencers and retired bureaucrats.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to wield some serious celebrity power in its campaign for next year’s Lok Sabha election, and the plan is to involve stars for every kind of fan.
Party sources said the celebrities on their radar include actors Kangana Ranaut, Akshay Kumar, Preity Zinta, Nana Patekar, Raveena Tandon, and Pallavi Joshi; cricketers Kapil Dev, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag, and Gautam Gambhir; and former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia, who heads his own political outfit, the Hamro Sikkim Party.
The list is likely to get longer as the elections draw near. According to sources, the party will also reach out to regional film personalities, social media influencers and retired bureaucrats.
“Chances are that a few of these will be offered tickets in the forthcoming elections, though some may not want to join politics,” said a source.
“In that case, the party will seek their help in wooing voters and campaign for the BJP in the upcoming polls.”
The strategy to mount a campaign rich on star power had paid off for the party in 2014, said a senior party leader. In that election, the party’s winning candidates included yesteryear heartthrobs Hema Malini (Mathura) and Shatrughan Singh (Patnasahib), actors Kirron Kher (Chandigarh) and Paresh Rawal (Ahmedabad East), besides Bhojpuri singer-actor Manoj Tiwari (Northeast Delhi) and Babul Supriyo (Asansol).
Shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore, who became India’s first individual silver winner at the Olympics in 2004, joined the Lok Sabha as a BJP MP.
Former bureaucrats R.K. Singh and Udit Raj also won the election on a BJP ticket, besides former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh and former Army chief V.K. Singh.
It’s the PM’s idea
Sources in the party said the suggestion to involve prominent personalities had come from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Those who have known Modi since the days he handled organisational work for the party said he had always been a votary of giving a few party tickets to personalities who touch the masses in one way or another.
“In addition to this, the BJP should have its own following in the glamour circuit, be it Bollywood or sports,” a senior party leader said.
“The advantage of having personalities contesting on our party symbol is that they are crowd-pullers and idol to many youngsters,” the leader added. “They will add new votes to the party… We need a mix-and-match of every category. It is always useful.”
‘The affiliation is already there’
Many of the celebrities the BJP wishes to involve in the campaign have directly or indirectly been in touch with the party.
For example, Dev was among the 50 celebrities visited by party chief Amit Shah during his ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ programme, a campaign to promote the development work done by the party in office.
Under the B.S. Yeddyurappa-led Karnataka government from 2008-2013, Kumble was appointed the vice-chairman of the state Wildlife Board, a position equivalent to a minister in rank.
“The affiliation has been there, we just need to pursue it,” said a leader.
Raveena Tandon and Akshay Kumar, meanwhile, have been voicing views seen to be in tandem with the party’s ideology. Kumar is a Canadian citizen, so he can’t be fielded as a candidate.
Zinta, too, had voiced her support for Modi when he was declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2013, while Oberoi had campaigned for the party in 2014.
The BJP had made feverish efforts to woo Kumble in Dravid ahead of this year’s Karnataka assembly elections, but the two had refused to join politics at the time.