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Bollywood stars shine in 5th phase, but don’t inspire Mumbai voters to brave the heat


Bollywood stars shine in 5th phase, but don’t inspire Mumbai voters to brave the heatMay 20, 2024Mumbai, May 20 (IANS) One of the most visible features of the just-concluded fifth phase of polling in Mumbai, which also marked the completion of Maharashtra’s tryst with the ballot, was the spotlight on Bollywood and, to a lesser extent, television stars showing up to vote.

As they turned up in casuals, away from the glamour and glitz of Bollywood events, in cars that ranged from a Maybach (Deepika-Ranveer) to an old-fashioned Maruti (Tabu), followed closely by the paparazzi, the stars obliterated the political figures who usually dominate headlines emanating from Maharashtra.Even high-profile candidates such as Piyush Goyal and Ujjwal Nikam could not dominate the media mindspace as much as the stars, from Akshay Kumar, who was voting after getting his Indian citizenship, to Shah Rukh Khan, who happily posed for shutterbugs with his wife Gauri and son Aryan, to Amitabh Bachchan, who showed up with wife Jaya, suffering the blazing heat but not showing the least discomfort.Talking about family outings, ‘Anupamaa’ star Rupali Ganguli, who recently joined the BJP, even declared, “A family that votes together, stays together.”Mumbai’s peripatetic paparazzi had been alerted a day in advance about the polling booths where the stars could be spotted — the most popular polling booths were the ones at St Anne’s and Mount Mary, both in Bandra — and the timings for these happy encounters.Most of the stars, from Sanya Malhotra to Ranbir Kapoor, were happy to simply flash their inked index finger and not speak, but some, notably Dharmendra, Akshay Kumar, Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao, gave statements to the media urging Mumbaikars to vote.Yet others, such as SRK, Anupam Kher and Paresh Rawal, urged people to not waste the right in statements they put up on their social media handles hours before the fifth phase started at 7 a.m. on Monday.There was a reason for this constant egging on. Mumbai had recorded a mere 55.11 per cent voter turnout in 2019, which, incidentally, was the highest in three decades — and this was just 4 per cent higher than the percentage recorded in 2014.2014, incidentally, was the year when, buoyed by the Modi wave, the voter turnout touched 66.44 per cent nationally. In 2019, the figure went up to 67.40 per cent — way above Mumbai’s 55.11 per cent.Mumbai, it seems, talks more than it votes, although it has never gone as low as the 1991 turnout of 41.2 per cent.And though the final figure is not out yet for the fifth phase, it appears that the Maximum City will again fall short of the tantalising 60 per cent mark that seems to elude it in each election. Ironically, the city’s richest and most educated constituency is likely to report the lowest turnout — in the lower 50s.Unlike the rest of the electorate, though, the stars took their job — of voting and flaunting their index finger to the paparazzi — very seriously. No star of note, despite the heatwave being blamed for the otherwise low turnout, missed his or her date with democracy.Kiara Advani landed from Cannes, went home and was out to cast her vote. Another Cannes returnee, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, exercised her right dutifully, but not before raising eyebrows by showing up alone, without her in-laws or husband Abhishek.Rajkummar Rao, who’s also an Election Commission-designated National Icon, and Janhvi Kapoor cast their votes en route to the airport, from where they flew off for ‘Mr. & Mrs. Mahi’ promotions.Aamir Khan flew in from the shoot of his upcoming movie, ‘Sitaare Zameen Par’, to be able to cast his vote along with ex-wife Kiran Rao, whose acclaimed film, ‘Laapataa Ladies’, he has just produced.The stars came in droves — from co-stars (Ranbir Kapoor and Bobby Deol) to star couples (Saif-Kareena, Dharmendra-Hema Malini, Ranveer-Deepika), from veterans (Gulzar, Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar) to the Gen Next (Ananya Panday, Shraddha Kapoor), to grown-up children with their famous parents (Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt, Hema Malini and Esha Deol, Jeetendra and Ektaa Kapoor, Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan, David and Varun Dhawan).This public display of star power, and its ripple effect on social media, is reminiscent of the 2016 and 2020 US elections, when Hollywood stars, driven by an overwhelming anti-Trump sentiment, made it fashionable for people to go on their favourite social media handles and declare that they had voted.This acted as a major turnout booster for Joe Biden, who benefited from Gen Z voters who showed up in hundreds of thousands to vote for him.Did the turnout of Bollywood stars on Monday trigger a higher turnout of young voters? We’ll only know when the final numbers are crunched.–IANSsrb/dan

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