News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » Election » Will Vinod Khanna's charm work in Gurdaspur?

Will Vinod Khanna's charm work in Gurdaspur?

May 11, 2009 16:17 IST

Image: Khanna addresses an election meeting
Vicky Nanjappa and photographer Satish Bodas track actor-politician Vinod Khanna's quest to retain the Gurdaspur constituency in Punjab.

Maar diya jaaye ya chod diya jaaye, bol Bajwa tere saat kya saluk kiya jayen (Should you be annhilated or left alone, tell us Bajwa (the Congress candidate from Gurdaspur, Pratap Singh Bajwa) what should we do to you)...

The crowd roars as Vinod Khanna, occasional actor and three-time Member of Parliament from Gurdaspur in Punjab, breaks into Bollywood bhasha (language) at his rallies.

When Khanna hits the campaign trail, you can sure Bollywood is not far behind. Salman Khan has campaigned for him this election as has Akshaye Khanna, the MP's second son.

Entertainment appears to be the mantra for Khanna whose performances in 1970s films like Amar Akbar Anthony and Hera Pheri still make the rounds of Hindi television channels.

'Wah! kya style hain unka'

Image: Khanna arrives at the venue
A cultural programme, with some very attractive dancers, keeps the crowd entertained until the MP arrives at the campaign venue, casually dressed in a pair of jeans, a blue shirt and black boots.

While trailing him at Deena Nagar, Awalka, Udaipur and Uchathala villages in Gurdaspur we note he still draws crowds, especially women.

After addressing the gathering in Punjabi, the women gather around their MP and discuss their problems with him. Before leaving, he tells them: "Badmash logon ko vote mat dena. Kamal chinh ko hi vote dena. Yaad rakhna 13 tarik (Don't vote for rowdy elements. Vote only for the lotus and remember, the date is May 13th)." The lotus is, of course, the symbol of his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Bibi Amarjeet Kaur, who is among those who have gathered to hear him at Deenanagar, tells us that Khanna has come to her village several times and that she has never missed his campaign.

"I have watched almost all his movies," she tells us, and wah! kya style hain unka (what style he has!). He is exactly like how we see him on the screen."

'This time I will change, even more for the better'

Image: Khanna at a road show
Khanna has a tough time leaving election meetings in the villages.

The women insist on keeping the windows of his Mitsubishi Pajero rolled down so that they can speak to him.

"I have served the people of my constituency for 12 years and they love me very much," he says, adding, "I am constantly working on improving my constituency. This time when I am elected, I will change, even more for the better."

'I shall wipe out unemployment'

Image: Khanna greets voters
He repeatedly tells his voters that he will never return to politics if he does not fulfil his electoral promises.

He also claims that no one understands the people's problems in his constituency better than him.

"I shall wipe out unemployment from here," declares the star-neta who, his critics allege, has been less than fully employed in serving Gurdaspur.

"Main jo bolta hoon kar ke dikata hoon aur mein kabhi jhoot nahin bolta hoon (I do what I say and I never lie)," says Khanna who abandoned Bollywood in the early 1980s to follow then Bhagwan Rajneesh to his commune in the United States.

Khanna then highlights his party's promise of bringing back all the cash Indians have stashed illegally abroad and claims this will solve the problems of the poor in a jiffy.

'Khanna to idhar aata hi nahin'

Image: A young supporter campaigns for Khanna
This election could well eject Khanna from Gurdaspur. The popular mood is against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, political observers say. Plus there are a large number of voters in Gurdaspur who say, "Khanna to idhar aata hi nahin (Khanna never comes here)", charging the MP of staying put in south Mumbai where he lives with wife Kavita and their young children.

A similar complaint is heard in Amritsar where another BJP candidate is in the fray; the party is also contesting the Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat. Voters in Batala tell us that Navjot Singh Sidhu has not been seen in those parts in a long time and this will threaten his chances of re-election.

Congress candidate Pratap Singh Bajwa believes he will end Khanna's winning run this election. He tours the constituency telling voters that they will get to see his face if they elect him unlike their current Mumbai-based representative in the House of the People.

Like other Congress candidates in Punjab, Bajwa also plays the Manmohan Singh card, sure that this is one state where the prime minister's politicial credentials can provide ballast to a campaign.