MUMBAI: Till the turn of the millennium, film stars guaranteed crowds and votes in politics. Political parties wooed them ardently. As a result, top stars like Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Raj Babbar, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Govinda and Jaya Bachchan braved the heat and dust of campaigning for their political parties.
Some like Dharmendra and Govinda could not understand the manipulations of politics and called it a day after one term. Others like Raj Babbar, Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan continue to stand their ground.
However, if various political parties are to be believed, the stardust is losing its glitter and film stars can no longer guarantee a win on the seats they campaign for.
A clear indication of this is the fact that the demand for film stars as campaigners is rapidly going down in these elections.
A BJP candidate said: "There is no use getting film stars to campaign because they cannot give speeches and do not leave any impact on voters."
Explained senior journalist R.K. Singh: "The stars are losing their credibility because they lack conviction in what they say. People know that in most cases stars take money to campaign and this erodes their sincerity. Some stars like Ravi Krishna and Manoj Tiwari have changed more parties than they have delivered hits."
Besides, he explained, the glamour factor has also reduced because film stars were now seen 24x7 on the social media and television.
"Earlier, people would wait for hours to catch a glimpse of their favourite actor but not any more. You just need to get on to the Internet and you can have your fill," he added.
Bhojpuri stars Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Yadav Nirahua, who are contesting the Gorakhpur and Azamgarh seats respectively, are already finding the going tough.
Raj Babbar, who is presently seeking election for his sixth term to Parliament and holds the position of Uttar Congress President, explains that it needs more than just stardom to survive in politics.
"Much before I started working in theatre and then films, I was associated with the socialist youth politics. I joined the Janata Dal in 1989 and actively participated in party activities. I later joined the Samajwadi Party and then the Congress.
"I never confined myself to campaigning and that is one reason why the parties and the people started taking me seriously," he says.
When Raj Babbar was appointed President of the Uttar Pradesh Congress in July 2016, few took him seriously in his own party. But two years later, they understood that he means business.
Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Jaya Bachchan and most others have, on the other hand, confined themselves to campaigning in their own constituencies or in select constituencies. They have not actively involved themselves in party matters.
One actress who spoke to this correspondent on the condition of anonymity said: "I did try to get my word in a few times but was politely told to restrict myself to campaigning. I have understood that apart from my star value, I mean nothing to the party."