The year 1987 was a crucial for Congress (I) in Kerala. This was the first time an election came after a Chief Minister completed his full term in office since the formation of Kerala state. After three decade of political flip flops and 9 Chief Ministers in office, the state seems to have started its legacy of choosing two coalitions on an alternate basis.
The powerful Chief Minister in the history of Kerala, K Karunakaran had tried all guns to gain public support in favour of him as well as the party. By following the line of the AICC he managed to get the all-time super star of Malayalam Cinema industry, Abdul Khader, popularly known as Prem Nazir into the party. Apparently the move did not work as the Congress led coalition was thrown out of power by the CPM led LDF and apparently Prem Nazir quit active politics.
Following this chapter, movie personalities from Kerala distanced themselves from electoral politics for a decade more till Malayalam movie hero Murali contested as the Left front candidate in 1999 Lok Sabha election from Alappuzha constituency. But even after having stardom and strong political support he failed to win the seat as VM Sudheeran, currently the PCC president, won from Alappuzha.
Although all the three other southern states, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh embraced movie stars as their elected representatives, Kerala so far shied away from the trend. Of ‘course there are exemptions for the literary fraternity of the state.
A significant change to this trend occurred in 2001 when KB Ganesh Kumar, a popular cine artist also the son of a powerful politician and former cabinet minister R Balakrishna Pillai, won from Pathanapuram assembly seat of Kollam District as a Congress led UDF candidate and subsequently became a cabinet Minister in AK Antony’s ministry. Perhaps this was the first time a popular cine actor won an election in Kerala. KB Ganesh Kumar never looked back as he won the seat for three consecutive times, in 2006 and 2011.
Each time the elections are on the door step, the rumours of fielding movie stars are the talk of the town. But in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a surprise candidate was fielded by the Left front against Congress strongman PC Chacko in a UDF bastion Chalakudy, Innocent , a comedian in Malayalam film industry, also the President of Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) made an emphatic win over Chacko.
The very experiment of Innocent became a turning point to the political parties while distributing tickets in assembly elections. The Congress led UDF was the first to announce Jagadish, a popular Movie star and TV anchor of Malayalam cinema to its candidate fold. He would be taking on KB Ganesh Kumar who quit UDF and made a deal with the LDF at Pathanappuram. With emerging reports as the BJP is planning to field Bhiman Raghu, who have done character roles as villain in Malayalam movies, in the same seat, would be the lone battle were all the main contenders are movie stars.
The move to give tickets to Cine stars has raised many eye brows in parties cutting across political lines. CPM, which hails itself as the most disciplined political outfit is being faced by a rebellion by its workers against the proposal to field movie stars. Posters, protest march are common in places like Vadakkanchery in Thrissur, and Kollam were the party planned to field popular cine actors, KPAC Lalitha and Mukesh. Both of them expressed their willingness to contest the elections, but the local leadership in these constituencies are vehemently opposing the move. As the pressure mounts KPACLalita withdrew herself from the race citing health reasons, leaving the CPM leadership red-faced. Suresh Gopi, one of the superstars of current era is gearing up for contesting as a BJP candidate from Thiruvananthapuram Central where the party consider him as a strong contender. For the past two years he has been actively participating in events which are considered close to BJP.
However, the political parties have not published their candidate list officially; the Malayalam movie world is excited by the move by the political parties. “Visibility is the acceptance given by the political parties to the movie stars, said P Rajan, veteran journalist. Being an actor should not be a disqualification in contesting elections, apart from that, one has to look at the commitment shown by that person, whether he/she is an actor or not, said Ranjith, renowned director in the Malayalam movie industry, in a TV debate. Anu Narayanan