Film industry used as political leverage, stars elected to parliament.
For more than a month, the elections have dominated most media, eclipsing new film releases and the Indian Premiere League cricket tournament. It was a mammoth enterprise; some 550 million of India’s 815 million eligible voters exercised their franchise.
Results were announced on Friday. The NDA is on track to win 339 of India’s 543 parliamentary seats, with the BJP on its own projected to win a simple majority with 283 seats.
BJP leader Narendra Modi, currently the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, will be the next Prime Minister of India, replacing Manmohan Singh.
Modi ran a presidential style campaign, choosing to focus on personality rather than the virtues of his party. And Bollywood was in the thick of the action.
Aware of the huge influence of movie stars, he ensured that he had photo opportunities with top Bollywood star Salman Khan, southern cult superstar Rajinikanth and younger stars with large fan followings.
Several actors – including Vinod Khanna, Paresh Rawal, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha — actually won seats.
In Amethi, the BJP candidate, popular soap star Smriti Irani, ran Congress leader Rahul Gandhi close before eventually losing.
The only time the Indian media took a break during the election campaign was to provide wall-to-wall coverage of the normally reclusive Rajinikanth joining Twitter. When Modi’s victory became apparent, Rajinikanth tweeted: “Hearty Congratulations dear @narendramodi Ji on your historic win. Best wishes”.
Shah Rukh Khan, Arshad Warsi, Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal, Anupam Kher and several other Bollywood stars joined him in tweeting their congratulations.
Helmer Karan Johar tweeted: “BJP….the first major Blockbuster of the year!!!! Huge opening and no sign of a Monday drop!!!”