All-star potboiler in Pathanapuram

All-star potboiler in Pathanapuram

Pathanapuram in Kollam district has emerged as Kerala’s star constituency in the May 16 Assembly election, all thanks to well, the stars who are in the fray.

This is a first of sorts in the state where movie stardom doesn’t alone guarantee a career in politics; 3 popular film actors are engaged in a contest here.

Even as the candidates — former minister K B Ganesh Kumar for the Left Democratic Front, P V Jagadeesh Kumar, popular as Jagadeesh, for the Congress and Raghu Damodaran for the BJP — get into the final phase of their campaigns, activists working for their respective parties hope that the contest is not reduced to the star turns and road-show entertainment.

Pradeep Kumar, a Congress supporter who runs a hardware shop in Kollam town, feels that it’s time issues, and not the candidates’ backgrounds, steered political debates in the constituency. “Yes, the LDF and UDF decided on actors for the contest and the BJP followed suit by fielding another actor. But once the campaign is on, they are on their own. It’s all about how you make yourself look and sound convincing; the celebrity status is only an introduction,” he said.

Kumar is one of the Congress backers in the constituency who have had difficulties in “adjusting” to the idea of Ganesh Kumar contesting the election from the Left camp. Ganesh, son of veteran Kerala Congress leader R Balakrishna Pillai, is the sitting MLA of Pathanapuram but he won in 2011 as a candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

As Transport Minister in the A K Antony government between 2001 and 2003, Ganesh had made an impression with his proactive measures but on the political turf, the actor-politician and his party has had a difficult time explaining the Left turn.

“But that was during the initial days of the campaign. It’s no longer an issue. People may sneer at political opportunism but beyond a point, they understand these compulsions. For them, what really matters is whether the candidate would deliver or not,” said Rajasekharan, an auto-rickshaw driver.

Ganesh has won 3 successive elections from Pathanapuram since 2001, with increasing margins of victory. Jagadeesh’s campaign managers are countering claims from the past by pointing out poor healthcare standards maintained in the constituency; there are also posters which call for “development over controversies”.

Raghu Damodaran, popular as Bheeman Raghu, is a veteran who started out as screen hero before moving on to antagonist characters and more recently, comic roles.

The BJP claims that Raghu is not here to merely complete the triangle. In line with the career trajectories of the 3 actors (Jagadeesh has mostly done comedy while the two others have done action and played their share of screen villains), the campaigning has also offered drama and variety entertainment for the voter, after Ganesh and Jagadeesh hit out at each other with personal allegations.

The heat has settled now but as polling day approaches, more celebrities turn up seeking votes for their friends, Pathanapuram is a pot-boiler in the making.