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It was a battle between a political flyweight and a heavyweight.

When then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi nominated friend and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan to take on Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna from Allahabad in 1984 not many took the contest seriously.

In one corner was a greenhorn entering the big game purely on his friend's say-so. Never mind that Allahabad was his home, poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan was his father and wife Jaya Bachchan went around asking for votes as moohdikhai -- the traditional gift to a bride on her unveiling the face for the first time.

In the other corner was Bahuguna. An alumnus of Allahabad University, the erudite Bahuguna had been chief minister of Uttar Pradesh twice before he fell foul of Sanjay Gandhi, aligned with Jagjivan Ram to start the Congress For Democracy, the group credited with igniting the downfall of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after the Emergency.

He also served as petroleum minister in the Morarji Desai government of 1977, and as finance minister in the short-lived Charan Singh ministry of 1979.

Post-Emergency saw him return to the Congress party, but the reunion did not last long. He went back to the Lok Dal, on whose ticket he was contesting from Allahabad.

There could be no contest between the newcomer and the veteran, Bahuguna believed.

As it turned out, there was no contest. Amitabh Bachchan trounced his rival (winning 68.2% of the vote) and effectively ended Bahuguna's political career. Bahuguna died soon after, almost unnoticed, even though a university in his native Garhwal has today been named after him.

One will never know how much of that vote for Bachchan owed to his star charisma and how much to the sympathy wave in Rajiv Gandhi's favour that netted the Congress party 415 seats and a brute majority in Parliament.

With the superstar exiting politics just three years later, the answer will remain forever in the realm of speculation.

Also See:
When Fernandes humbled the 'King'

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