Hindi cinema actor Sunny Deol joins BJP, gets ticket for Gurdaspur seat

Celebrities sway undecided voters, says party

April 23, 2019 12:52 pm | Updated 10:41 pm IST - New Delhi

New role: Actor Sunny Deol joining the BJP in the presence of Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goel.

New role: Actor Sunny Deol joining the BJP in the presence of Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goel.

Film star Sunny Deol joined the BJP on Tuesday, and was fielded from the Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency that had previously been held by another cine star, the late Vinod Khanna.

Mr. Deol, however, is not the only celebrity or late recruit awarded with party ticket by the BJP. The party is fighting the largest number of seats it has ever fought since it was founded in 1980, and has spread the net far and wide to snag likely candidates.

The BJP had fielded 428 candidates in 2014, 433 in 2009, 364 in 2004 and 339 in 1999. The count for 2019 is currently at 434 with at least three seats yet to be declared, taking the tally to well beyond the 2009 levels.

Among the celebrity inductees fielded so far are cricketer Gautam Gambhir, Bhojpuri stars Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Yadav alias Nirauwa, singer Hansraj Hans, actress Jaya Prada and Bengali actress Locket Chatterjee who had joined the BJP much earlier. Some celebrity candidates have been repeated from 2014, including actress Hema Malini and Union Minister and musician Babul Supriyo. Those who joined the party just before the polls and given a party ticket include Arvind Sharma of the Congress, now fielded from Rohtak in Haryana, A. Manju from Hassan in Karnataka and his former colleague Umesh Jadhav, entering the Gulbarga fray from the same State.

Sources in the party say that fielding celebrities or well-known candidates helps in cases where the voter enters the polling booth undecided on whom to vote for. “With photographs of those contesting now appearing on EVMs, this gets parties an extra push at the time the voter actually votes,” a source says.

The party has defended its ticket distribution, negating the charge that a large number of tickets to outsiders does not reflect on the paucity of in-house talent. “While the BJP has fielded people who have been associated with the party for a very long time, fielding celebrities and well-known faces from across various fields helps the party expand its constituency, even those individuals who have had familial connections with the party and broadly conformed to the ideological moorings of the party,” says G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, Rajya Sabha MP and party spokesperson.

“These kind of inductions also indicate which way the wind is blowing, especially in the case of political cross-overs,” he says. On the exit of celebrity partyman, Shatrughan Sinha, Mr. Rao says, “We suffered Mr. Sinha’s abusive utterances and his inevitable departure was a relief. Public perception had already relegated him to outsider status,” he adds.

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