News Hindi

How Padmavati is shaping up Gujarat and Rajasthan elections agenda

Cinestaan.com got talking to experts on how the whole Padmavati issue will pan out from the point of view of elections. 

Keyur Seta

Who would have imagined that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati would become a burning national issue that would be debated endlessly on the streets, television and social media? The numerous death threats received by the team from fanatic Rajput groups and a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made sure that it is not merely a film. 

Ultimately, the makers had to postpone the release of the film from 1 December to an unknown date. The film is also banned in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. This, however, hasn’t helped the controversy and the atmosphere of hate to subside in the country.

But if we look closely, the entire episode reveals the political scenario in the nation and how elections shape up the stand of leaders. Cinestaan.com got talking to a few experts on their take on the entire controversy from the point of view of elections.  

Pravin Mishra is a professor and a political expert from Ahmedabad, who has been studying the political scenario in the state for years. The state will be going to polls from 9 December onwards, just a week after Padmavati was scheduled to be released earlier. Mishra firmly believes that Padmavati is being used only to hide actual issues. 

“These (Padmavati) are manufactured issues. When you don’t have relevant issues, you are compelled to use issues like Taj Mahal, Vande Mataram and Padmavati. Real issues are corruption cases involving Jay Shah and Shaurya Doval, Rafale deal scam, re-emergence of Sohrabuddin case, communalism, etc,” he said. 

Mishra questions the supposed pride of Rajput groups that they claim to have been hurt due to the film. “We need oxygen in hospitals. Every week somebody is dying of hunger. What pride are you talking about with respect to one community? Your pride isn’t harmed when kids die in hospitals? These are real issues but elections are not fought for the real issues. They are fought on emotive issues like somebody’s pride. Also, three lakh distraught farmers are protesting in Delhi. It is getting almost no media coverage,” he added. 

Mishra is sure that the Padmavati issue will be forgotten once the elections are over and the film will benefit eventually. “This will help the producers because ultimately the film will be released. In this case, it is Mukesh Ambani’s company (Viacom 18). The film will make money in whatever ways. Everybody would like to see what the film is all about. It is shameful that even after 70 years of independence, we are more concerned about what should be shown in a film and that too without watching the film. Once the elections are over, they all will go to the cinema hall to see it,” he said. 

Interestingly, Padmavati has been criticized even by Congress when Captain Amarinder Singh, the CM of Punjab, recently came down heavily on it. However, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, who is from the same party has supported the film. When we pointed this out, Mishra said, “Local contradictions keep happening. Every politician has to pamper his own vote bank. They will make statements that will satisfy the desires or emotions of their own vote bank.” 

While a lot has been spoken about the immediate elections in Gujarat, what is interesting is that Rajasthan, too, is poll bound in the first half of next year. And Padmavati becomes an even bigger issue over there since it has a large population of Rajputs, the group that is allegedly irked by the film. 

Chandan Nandy, the Opinion Editor of The Quint and political expert, believes that controversy surrounding the film plays a major role in Rajasthan. “Rajputs constitute a very small percentage of social groups in Gujarat. But Rajasthan is certainly going to be the big one. Needless to say, the Rajput influence in Rajasthan is far more than it is in Gujarat,” he said while speaking to Cinestaan.com. 

According to him, the Padmavati controversy has come as an opportunity right when the government is going through a tough phase. “The key element in Rajasthan is that this lady chief minister (Vasundhara Raje) is not in a very politically comfortable situation. There are instances of financial scandals and other areas where the state government has slipped up. So, obviously, this (Padmavati controversy) has come as a premium. But how much of it may really translate into electoral gains or not will depend on how far the Congress is able to take a stand on this,” said Nandy. 

He adds that if Congress too joins in to please Rajputs by opposing Padmavati, it will make matters worse. “That will be very unfortunate. But if Congress does sense that it has an opportunity to return to power (in Rajasthan), it should take up this issue in my opinion. The Congress itself is divided on this issue. Therefore it raises questions as to how Congress will behave politically before Rajasthan goes into polls. The issue has revealed the BJP, which has always been sectarian in a way. But it has surprisingly revealed the Congress, which is a little disturbing,” he added. 

Nandy also looks at the other side of the appeasement in terms of how West Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee has opposed the BJP over the Padmavati issue. “I think each of these state governments have their own political agenda. Mamta is supporting this because primarily it is aimed at targeting all sects of Muslims. It is not merely a question of getting hold of the Rajput vote. From Mamta’s perspective, since it is Alauddin Khilji, who was a Muslim, she will play another kind of vote-bank politics,” he said. 

Nandy also agrees with Mishra that ultimately, it is the film that will gain out of the entire controversy. “Why not? This might sound a little cynical but almost everybody gains from it. This is going to raise the stock of the movie as well. People will wonder what is in it that we are missing out. So, commercially it will hold Bhansali in good stead,” he signed off. 

Related topics

Censorship