Sridevi had a brief brush with politics, though it is forgotten in the colossal success she had in the film world. It was not a direct involvement, but she did briefly campaign for a Tamil Nadu Assembly election for a Congress candidate – her father.
The Congress party had nominated Sridevi’s father K Ayyappan as its candidate for the Sivakasi Constituency in the 1989 Assembly elections. That was the first election after MG Ramachandran had died, and there was a four-way fight in almost all constituencies.
DMK, Congress, and the two factions of AIADMK, one led by Jayalalithaa and the other led by MGR’s widow Janaki Ramachandran, had fought independently.
Congress sprang a surprise by nominating Ayyappan as the candidate. Though Ayyappan came from a family of Congressmen, he had not been active in politics. In fact, the then Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president GK Moopanar had made known his displeasure at Ayyappan being preferred over one of the names he had recommended.
The caste distribution in the constituency, dominated by Ayyappan’s Naidu community with a fair sprinkling of Nadars, also probably played a part in the party high command decision.
Though he did not have any political grounding, Ayyappan was fairly well known in some areas, hailing from a fairly well to do landowning family. Reports suggested that Ayyappan had probably been hand-picked by Rajiv Gandhi, as the two had met during the latter’s dozen visits to Tamil Nadu in 1988.
This was an election in which more than a dozen of film actors (past and present) were contesting, and the presence of Sridevi, albeit indirectly, was expected to add some additional glamour.
It was widely expected that the Congress might rope in Sridevi for campaigning. Though by this time Sridevi had moved to Bollywood, she was still a southern star.
However, Sridevi refused to be drawn into the political tamasha, confining her campaigning only to Sivakasi. She did not address any election rally, but accompanied her father on his campaign trail through the constituency for three or four days, before going back to Bombay.
In any event, Ayyappan lost the election by a margin of more than 5,000 votes to DMK veteran P Sreenivasan (who had first short to fame as a college student, when he defeated K Kamaraj in the 1967 Assembly elections).
And that was also the end of Ayyappan’s political ambitions.
His daughter Sridevi never entered the political arena herself. She did go on a campaign trail one more time though – in 2014, Sridevi, along with husband Boney Kapoor, campaigned for Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Amar Singh in Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh, for the General Elections.
(This article was originally published in The News Minute, and has been republished here with permission.)