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Rakhi Sawant backs demonetization but wants Rs5k, 15k notes

The reality TV star whose birthday is today (25 November) speaks about longing to see Rahul Gandhi as PM and taking on Mayawati in the UP polls.

Mayur Lookhar

Stars may come and go, but Rakhi Sawant will remain a firebrand forever. For now, the reality TV star is set to turn a year younger. She is firm that she is just 31 years old. Sawant, who shot to fame with the reality TV shows Bigg Boss and Rakhi Ka Swayamavar, has kept a low profile in the past four years. With her stock on TV dipping, the lady is setting foot into the digital space and also bracing for a new innings in politics.

Sawant spoke to Cinestaan.com about her new show, politics, demonetization and more. Excerpts from the conversation:

With age, the importance of a birthday diminishes. Do you feel the same? Or are there plans to celebrate your birthday tonight?

I don’t think so. Most of us have low-key celebrations with family and close friends. However, I’ve not been celebrating my birthday since 2008 after the terror attacks in Mumbai that happened a day after my birthday.

I was to perform in Goa on my birthday, but the demonetization of currency has led to cancellation of it. By the way, I will turn 31. 

You are coming up with a web series. Can you tell us something about that?

The show is called Rakhi In Khaki. It will be a comedy show which will have everything from celebrity guests to swayamvar to gags. The guests will come to Rakhi Ki Chowki. We will be taking digs at everyone. It will have double meaning jokes as there is no censorship on the internet.

We no longer see you much on television. Has the Rakhi brand of humour lost its value on TV? Is that the reason why TV channels are no longer wooing you? And is it why you have moved to the digital space?

I ruled television for eight years. I was the one who led the way for all entertainment channels. [The channels] are merely doing what I taught them. So there is no question of value. When it comes to Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Rakhi Sawant, we never lose our value. Rajinikanth said at the [2.0] press conference that I am his favourite actress. Hum jahaan khade ho jaate hain, line waheen se shuru ho jaati hai. [The queue begins where we stand.

I’ve set the trend on the digital space. Don’t be surprised if others follow suit.

A colleague briefly mentioned about you meeting with an accident. Hope you are all fine now.

That happened four years ago in Colombo, Sri Lanka. when I fell off the stage. That affected my memory, I had to shave my head. It took two years to regain my memory. I’m doing fine now.

Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athawale had said that if Mayawati decides to contest in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, he would field you against her. Your thoughts?

He’s right in saying that. He has held discussions with Amit Shah [the national president of the ruling BJP]. RPI will get to contest four to five seats in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections next year. They have decided to field me against Mayawatiji. We were supposed to begin our rally in Uttar Pradesh. However, the demonetisation of currency has affected those plans. If there are no notes, then how can we have a rally?

Mayawati is a giant in UP politics. Do you think you can give her a tough fight?

I have great respect for Mayawatiji. She is a terrific Dalit leader. However, Rakhi Sawant is no less than anyone. If she has an elephant [the BSP's electoral symbol] then I’m a chinti [ant]. Main kisi ke baap se nahi darti [I fear no one]. My appeal for votes will be very different. I will dance my way to win votes since I’m not left with any currency notes. Main item song kar kar key vote maangoongi [I’ll perform item numbers to win votes]. 

I guess the people of Uttar Pradesh will be thoroughly entertained. 

Yes. I’ll be telling them, "Dilwalon dil ka karaar lootne, main aayi hoon UP, Biharwalon ka vote lootne."

I’m sure the election commission will be keeping a close eye on you.

I’m not talking about looting notes. Is it written somewhere that a politician cannot dance during elections? There is no law that bars them from dancing. Politicians give fake speeches, they level accusations against one another. I’m not doing any of that stuff. 

The problem with an entertainer such as yourself coming into politics is that often most people don’t take them seriously. Your view?

A politician has to pay money to gather an audience. However, when a star comes on stage, people throng to the grounds.

What I meant is that your image of an entertainer can go against you. As we saw in the Lok Sabha elections, where you lost as an independent candidate. You barely got 2,000 votes.

Well, my party [Rashtriya Aam Party] was formed just seven days before the elections. We got the party symbol, green chilly, five days before the election, yet we got over 2,500 votes. Isn’t that an achievement? 

However, even if they win, actors seldom get their due in politics. Most of them tend to quit.

All such talk is foolhardy. The likes of Shatrughan Sinha, Raj Babbar, Hema Malini still continue to work for the people. I’m not like other stars though. If I get power, then I will use it completely. 

What are the issues you will be addressing during the UP elections?

There are a whole lot of issues – power, roads, infrastructure, education, development of single mothers, save the girl child, their education, strict laws for rapists. I'll be very harsh on rapists.

So, what is your view on prime minister Narendra Modi’s action to demonetize high-value currency notes?

Modiji is doing a great job. It’s a great move by him. Modiji bhagwaan ka roop lekar aaye hain [Modi is god’s avatar]. I will always support him. In fact, I will tell him to introduce Rs5k, 10k, 15k currency notes. I’m writing a letter to him in this regard.

The main purpose of the move was to eliminate black money which often gets circulated in higher denomination notes. 

There should be Re15 and Rs25 notes too.

Early this year, TV actress Pratyusha Bannerji committed suicide. Back then, you had made a bizarre statement by calling for a ban on all ceiling fans. Do you think such statements can have a backlash on you?

Why should they? Nothing happened to me. Kaunsa mera ceiling fan lekar gaya koi? [No one took away my ceiling fan.] I still back my statement. Suicides among the youth are on the rise, and in most cases, they hang themselves from a ceiling fan. When there is no ceiling fan, how will they commit suicide? Many people got rid of ceiling fans from their house. I received mails from the youth wherein they said they wanted to commit suicide but their parents got rid of the ceiling fans. Now they’ve stopped contemplating suicide. 

Well, it’s just not ceiling fans, people commit suicide by jumping in front of trains. Now, surely you can’t call for such transport to be banned?

That is a different thing. The easiest way to kill yourself is through a ceiling fan. You can have a table fan, air-conditioner or cooler. The poor will have to settle for a table fan. 

Aamir Khan drew flak for his comments on the intolerance that has crept in since the Modi government came to power. Do you think there is intolerance in the country?

I don’t remember Aamir Khan’s comments. I can’t say a word against him. He’s a dear friend. Whatever he says is worth its weight in gold. I will never say a word against Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan. However, I don’t think there is any intolerance in the country. Modiji respects all Muslims and Dalits. He respects all religions and all communities. I think he will rule the country for 20 years. However, I’d like to see Rahul Gandhi as prime minister one day. 

Any particular reason? 

There is no particular reason but he is working very hard. He has been meeting people a lot. I’m not anti-Congress. They have done great for this country in the past. Modiji speaks great but his predecessor [Manmohan Singh] didn’t speak at all. 

So what do you make of Rahul Gandhi’s political statements, which often drew flak from the public? 

The day Rahulji becomes prime minister, he will ban Rs2000 currency notes and reintroduce Rs1000 notes. India should give an opportunity to Rahulji as well.

So, will you be voting for Rahul Gandhi in the next Lok Sabha election?

No, I will only vote for myself.