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Will actor Kichcha Sudeep be a hit for the BJP?

Explained: Will actor Kichcha Sudeep be a hit for the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections?

Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai with Kannada actor Kiccha Sudeep who announced to campaign for BJP in upcoming Assembly polls. File image/PTI

There’s an energy in the Karnataka air, a political energy. With the elections in the state just three weeks away —voting will take place on 10 May and the results will be declared three days later, on 13 May — the political buzz is loud and churning away.

On Wednesday (19 April), Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai will be filing his nomination papers for the elections and noted Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep will accompany the BJP leader. The actor had earlier said that he would campaign for his ‘uncle’ and the BJP. At an earlier press conference, the Vikrant Rona star had said that he shared a deep personal bond with Bommai and will campaign for the BJP out of respect and admiration that he has for the chief minister.

But will the actor’s star power convert to votes for the BJP? We take a closer look.

Who is Kichcha Sudeep?

Kichcha Sudeep, whose real name is Sudeep Sanjeev, hails from the politically important area of Shimoga. In the Kannada film industry for now over 25 years, he has donned multiple hats, including those of actor, writer, singer, director, producer, and television host. As the host of Bigg Boss Kannada, he has garnered a huge fan base in and out of Karnataka.

The actor has projected an image of a self-made artist and has risen the ranks to become one of the most sought-after names in the Kannada film industry. In 2013, seeing his fame, he was chosen to serve as Bengaluru’s Traffic Police Department and Income Tax Department’s brand ambassador. He was also named the ambassador for the cow adoption programme run by Karnataka Animal Husbandry Department in 2022.

Sudeep hasn’t been free of controversy, either. In April last year, he had an online spat with Bollywood star Ajay Devgn over his ‘Hindi is no longer a national language’ comment. It had all began after Sudeep stated at an event that “Hindi is no more a national language”. Hitting back at the actor, Devgn asked him on Twitter why the South industries dub films in Hindi then.

Explained Will actor Kichcha Sudeep be a hit for the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections
Sudeep Sanjeev, popularly known as Kichcha Sudeep, has a career in the Kannada film industry spanning over 25 years. He has donned multiple hats, including those of actor, writer, singer, director, producer, and television host. File image/PTI

A political plunge?

In January this year, Sudeep caught eyeballs when he met with Congress’ DK Shivakumar. There was speculation that he would either join or campaign for the Grand Old Party in the state. When questioned about the meeting, he reportedly said, “The first norm of politics is to never discuss your opinion. Don’t give a hint,” he had said at the CNN-News18 Bengaluru Town Hall.

Later in April, Sudeep stated that he wouldn’t be joining politics, but would campaign for the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections. The actor also extended his support to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who he referred to as his “mama” (uncle).

“I call the CM ‘Mama’ (uncle’ as I have seen him since my childhood. I have very few people who stood by me since childhood, so it won’t be wrong to call him Mama (uncle). I didn’t have a godfather when I entered the film industry. I want to extend my support to him (CM),” he said at a press conference with Bommai.

Reacting to the news, Bommai had then said, “He is like strength to us now. I welcome him.”

Also read: Will Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar’s chief ministerial ambitions hurt Congress in Karnataka elections?

Can he sway the vote?

Kichcha Sudeep belongs to the Valmiki Nayaka community in the state. This community is the largest among the nearly 52 tribes in the state. Experts state that Sudeep will influence the Valmiki Nayaka community, which has considerable electoral clout in central districts of the state like Chitradurga, Davangere, Bellary and Raichur. Since 2008, the BJP has secured the most seats in the region. However, according to reports, the Congress has taken advantage of the tensions regarding the internal reservation for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in the region.

Explained Will actor Kichcha Sudeep be a hit for the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections
BJP hopes to retain the state of Karnataka in the upcoming Assembly elections. File image/PTI

Some pundits also noted that by roping in Sudeep, the BJP hopes to sway the votes of other communities in the state, especially those of the Dalits, which till now seemed certain to go in the favour of the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi gets initiated into the Lingayat sect: What’s the community and why is it important to Karnataka politics?

This isn’t Sudeep’s first brush with politics, though and this signifies his importance in the state. In 2014 too, the Congress offered him to contest as a party candidate from either Raichur or Bellary Lok Sabha seats. Prior to the 2018 Assembly elections, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-{S}) too tried to bring the actor into their party by offering him an MLC position and a potential ministerial role. Despite the proposition, the actor declined to delve into electoral politics and remained aloof.

But there are others who note that Kannada actors actually hold no sway over the political decisions of the people. One such political observer told The Quint that there has been no instance when rallies by stars have resulted in votes swinging in favour of candidates. “People come to see and listen to actors but the ultimate decision on whom to vote for depends on the stature of the candidate, party, caste, and development works done by the candidate’s party,” the political watcher said.

But it appears that the Opposition is wary of Sudeep’s sway. The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-{S}) had written to chief electoral officer of the Election Commission in Karnataka seeking to block the display and screening of the actor’s ads, claiming that this might influence the voters during the upcoming 10 May Karnataka Assembly elections. The EC had denied this request.

It is left to be seen if Sudeep’s campaigning garners the result or will he flop with the voters?

With inputs from agencies

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