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When will Hema Malini come?

Jyoti Shukla in Raipur | November 25, 2003 11:04 IST

"Hema Malini kab aayengi? (When will Hema Malini come?)" The person asking this question was around 65 years old with white mane peeping from under his pagari and a white moustache adorning his face.

The saffron tilak on his forehead made it clear that he was a Bhartiya Janata Party supporter.

The place was the party's election office in Raipur and BJP's national vice-president Karuna Shukla (niece of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and an ex-member of assembly) was giving information about Vajpayee's forthcoming election campaign.

Standing nearby and eavesdropping, this old man was clearly more interested in Hema Malini than the prime minister.

His next question was "Is Vinod Khanna also coming?"

"Yeah... he is in town right now... going to address rally tonight..." a visibly embarrassed Shukla mumbled.

Then she tried to salvage her wounded pride by enthusiastically telling that the prime minister will soon be coming to town for campaigning.

But the old man waved his hand dismissively as if to say 'politicians are of no interest to me' and turned away. Perhaps to go to Vinod Khanna's rally.

This is not a solitary example of voter apathy in Chhattisgarh.

The electorate, it seems, is simply not interested in political leaders and thinning crowds are worrying all parties and their star campaigners.

To overcome this problem, the BJP has taken help of film stars. It has resulted in bigger turnouts and better coverage in the media.

Shatrughan Sinha is attending three public rallies on Tuesday. Vinod Khanna has already done his bit for BJP, while Hema Malini is supposed to come soon.

Now the Congress has caught on this 'filmi fever'. It has contacted Mahima Chaudhary to come to Chhattisgarh to campaign for the party. It iss also trying to get some more film stars and has promised to release their campaign schedules soon.

After film stars, second biggest attraction for the Chhattisgarhi crowd is the helicopter. There are five helicopters being used by political bigwigs of different parties to reach remote places.

Earlier this week when Chief Minister Ajit Jogi went to a Karhi-Makri village for a public rally, hardly 200-300 people turned up to listen to him. Almost half of this crowd consisted of Congress workers from nearby town Baloda Bazar and rest were villagers who had come to have a glimpse of the 'flying machine'.

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