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In Kerala, three actors draw swords in Lok Sabha poll battle

''Actors joining politics has become common in Kerala for over a decade,'' said B Unnikrishnan, the General Secretary of the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) Directors Union.

In Kerala, three actors draw swords in Lok Sabha poll battle

Suresh Gopi

KOCHI: As the state gears up for the pivotal moment of democratic expression, three prominent actors have thrown their hats into the political ring in Kerala.

While superstar and senior actor Suresh Gopi is trying his luck from the Thrissur constituency on a BJP ticket, well-known actor and sitting Left MLA M Mukesh is contesting from the Kollam Lok Sabha seat. The saffron party has fielded its leader and actor G Krishnakumar to take on Mukesh in Kollam and UDF candidate N K Premachandran, a seasoned politician, who represents the Kollam seat currently.

Unlike neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where film personalities have been playing a key role in determining its political future for several decades, the convergence of the entertainment industry and politics in Kerala is happening very slowly. Currently, there are four artists from the Malayalam tinsel town elected to the state Assembly. Apart from Mukesh, state Transport Minister K B Ganesh Kumar, Mani C Kappan and Daleema Jojo were elected to the state Assembly in the 2021 elections.

''Actors joining politics has become common in Kerala for over a decade,'' said B Unnikrishnan, the General Secretary of the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) Directors Union.

''For over a decade, it has become common for our colleagues from the industry to venture into politics, and it is no longer unusual. We have seen many from the industry trying their luck in politics. Ganesh Kumar has been serving as an MLA and a minister in the state cabinet for a long time now,'' Unnikrishnan said while speaking to PTI.

Suresh Gopi, the star candidate of the BJP, was earlier nominated to Rajya Sabha. However, he failed to win the people's mandate in the 2019 general election and the 2021 Assembly poll.

Despite several decades of intense campaigning, the BJP, which could not make much headway in electoral politics in the state, is now testing its fortune by fielding Gopi again from the Thrissur Lok Sabha seat, banking on his popularity and influence among his fans. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has visited Thrissur twice recently to give a boost to Gopi's campaign.

His friend actor Mukesh, a sitting MLA of the state's ruling CPI(M) and best known for his rib-tickling roles, has won two consecutive elections, in 2016 and 2021, from the Kollam Assembly constituency. He represents Kollam seat in the Assembly.

Mukesh's rival candidate in Kollam seat, Krishnakumar, a BJP member, is familiar to audiences through various roles in television serials and movies.

In recent years, he has increased his social media presence, alongside his four daughters, all of whom are major influencers on digital platforms.

Speaking to PTI, Krishnakumar highlighted his goal of achieving maximum development in the Kollam Lok Sabha constituency.

He did not hold back while criticising Mukesh and UDF's N K Premachandran.

According to Krishnakumar, using the term 'actor-turned politician' was not accurate, as anyone could enter politics regardless of their profession.

''For me, campaigning in the constituency is easy. Neither of the opposing candidates has contributed anything to the constituency. Premachandran is the sitting MP, while Mukesh is a sitting MLA of the ruling party. They both have failed to make any significant impact in the constituency, and they are both part of the same INDIA bloc,'' Krishnakumar said.

Meanwhile, Unnikrishnan said the film fraternity usually does not take sides during elections, as each individual has his or her own political ideology.

He referred to the electoral battle of the famous actor Innocent from the Chalakkudy seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

''Innocent chettan (a term used for an elder brother) contested and became an MP from Chalakudy while he was the president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (A.M.M.A),'' Unnikrishnan added.

Some prominent actors and directors refused to comment on actors venturing into politics.

Film reviewer Arjun R pointed out that while the on-screen persona of actors is a factor, it does not influence the voters much in Kerala.

''Nevertheless, K B Ganesh Kumar, who comes from a political family, then Mukesh, and the late actor Innocent were successful in the electoral fray,'' Arjun said.

Ganesh Kumar, a senior actor and son of senior Kerala Congress leader Late R Balakrishna Pillai, has been elected to the state Assembly five times since 2001.

Kumar has also held various portfolios in both the Congress-led UDF and the CPI(M)-led LDF ministries. Actor Jagadhish had contested against Kumar in the 2016 election.

Mani C Kappan, who has produced numerous movies and acted in a few, is currently an MLA from Pala. Now, part of the Congress-led UDF, he was previously associated with the Left front.

Singer Daleema Jojo defeated Congress leader Shanimol Usman in the 2021 Assembly elections from the Aroor seat. Arjun pointed out that the late well-known actor Murali, who contested with Left backing in 1999, lost the elections to senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran.

He also noted that Dharmajan Bolgatty and Veena Nair, who contested on Congress ticket for the state Assembly, were also unsuccessful. In the past, well-known actor Prem Nazir showed interest in politics but did not contest. However, noted filmmaker Ramu Kariat, had won as a left independent from Nattika in the 1965 assembly elections. In the 1989 general elections, the Left party had fielded noted director late Lenin Rajendran against Congress' K R Narayanan, who later went on to become the President of India.

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