From B'wood to Bundelkhand: Reel couple in poll show
Anand Mishra From the tinsel town to the rugged terrain of Bundelkhand, it is a big transition for artist Sushmita Mukherjee, wife of actor Raja Bundela, who is contesting from the Jhansi Assembly segment this time.
As Bundela waits on the roadside to shake hands with school children and youths participating in a voter awareness rally on a sunny day, the 'bahu' of Bundelkhand, as she is loving called by the Raja's supporters, raises slogans of "Jai Jai Bundelkhand".
Responses, however, feeble, bring a smile on his face as Mukherjee pats Bundela, who is still tottering on his dream journey from the virtual to the real world.
"After seeing the travails of the commoners in this real life, Raja could not actually go back to the reel life," she says as women members of the party cajole her to stay in Bundelkhand permanently. It's indeed a transition for the chirpy Kitty of Pankaj Kapoor's starred famous detective serial 'Karamchand Jasoos' as she moves among the masses covering her head with a 'pallu' and greeting them in their party office with "bhale padharo ji".
"No I do not have any problem. After all it is my sasural (in-laws? house) and I learnt Bundeli in short time," says Mukherjee, who will be seen in two Hollywood movies 'Roary Silence' and 'Sold'. She has acted in over two dozen films including 'Golmal', 'Khoya Khoya Chand' and 'Rudali' and an equal number of television serials.
"She continues to act in films as she is now the sole bread earner of the family with me joining full time politics," says Bundela who contested last Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket.
"Since acting in films take more time and it was getting difficult with my political priorities, I have shifted my attention to direction, which is less time consuming,"
Bunedela says, who recently shot a Hollywood film ?That Game of Chess" in Los Angeles. After passing out from NSD in 1978 and later from FIIT in Pune, Bundela acted in Naseeruddin Shah starrer film 'Aadharshila'. His latest films included Amitabh Bachchan starrer 'Main Azad Hoon' and Sunny Deol's 'Bhagat Singh'.
It was his visit to attend a seminar on small states in 1995 here that saw the actor turning into a political activist. He started with Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha in 1995, before joining Congress in 2004, a decision that he regrets saying he should have quit the party long back.
He later floated Bundelkhand Congress, which has fielded 42 candidates in this election. The party's main poll plank is a separate Bundelkhand as Mukherjee points out "give us the fishing rod not the fishes.
Schemes like MNREGA won?t achieve anything unless the Bundelkhandis have political power." Bundela's film friends have chipped in to help him with actor Ompuri, Satish Kaushik and singer Altaf Raza already having come to campaign for him.
"The administration did not allow permission to my other film friends like Nana Patekar and Salman Khan to come for campaigning," Bundela alleges.
Eighteen years is a long time but politics is all about patience, the cine actor tells unveiling his future plans for civic bodies elections and Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections for Bundelkhand.
Apparently realising that the odds are quite stacked against him in the caste driven politics of elections where he is pitted against big parties, Bundela says, "Winning is not the only criteria. I will not be compromising on my principles. Mine is the only political party fighting for Bundelkhand.
It will catch up with the masses" Brahmins, Sahus Vaishyas, Kurmis-Kushwahas (OBCs) and Muslims constitute large chunk of votes in Jhansi Town assembly seat, which was won in the 2009 assembly by-poll by BSP's Kailash Sahu. The party has replaced him this time with Sitaram Kushwaha.
The seat was won by Congress leader Pradip Jain Aditya in 2007 assembly elections, who resigned from it during 2009 Lok Sabha elections and became an MP and then Union Minister.
Congress has fielded Brajendra Vyas alias Damdam Maharaj from here while BJP?s candidate is Ravi Verma and SP?s is Arfan Siddiqui. As the election campaigning came to an end yesterday, political parties have tried all tricks to reach the voters with the BJP candidate taking out the marriage procession of Lord Shiva.
It's also a good time for caste organisations and even many committees claiming to be fighting for Bundelkhand to declare their backing to one or the other candidate. But voters prefer a silence. "You go to any village....Acute water crisis and unemployment are the hallmarks," says Aarif Shahdoli at Jhansi bazaar. PTI