Celebrating Big B’s 80th birthday, Bachchan’s attempt at politics

Today, Amitabh Bachchan is 80 and stronger than ever, clocking up celluloid miles as the roles roll in and directors are still lining up to sign him. Today is Amitabh Bachchan’s birthday.

From Ramesh Sippy, who directed him in the 1975 cult film Sholay, to Ayan Mukerji directing his latest Brahmastra 47 years later, Bachchan is the man for all seasons and all types of films. However, the actor and his family have a life and legacy beyond cinema — particularly in politics.

From “Big B’s” short-lived political activity to his wife Jaya’s Samajwadi party career and “Gandhi Connect,” News18 takes a look at the family’s political relationship:

Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Connections to Nehru

The relationship between the two families can be traced back to Amitabh’s father, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who worked as a Hindi officer in the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to a report in the Free Press Journal, Jawahar Lal Nehru held him in high esteem and brought families together while he was stationed in Allahabad. Teji Bachchan, Amitabh’s mother, became close friends with Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter.

Sonia Gandhi came to India in 1968 as Rajiv’s fiancé. Amitabh was the one who met her at Palam airport, the report said. Teji taught her Indian customs and traditions while she was staying at the Bachchans’ home in New Delhi, Willingdoon Crescent 13, acting as an intermediary between the Italians and Indira, who was initially “reluctant about choosing her son”.

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and on the advice of Rajiv Gandhi, Amitabh left cinema and entered politics. As Bachchan began campaigning, enthusiasm among his supporters grew, resulting in a larger crowd.

He ran to the seat of Allahabad.

During this period, the Electoral Commission played an “unbiased” role, ordering Doordarshan not to broadcast “Amitabh Bachchan’s films during the election code of conduct”. Despite the ban, Bachchan defeated Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, a former congressman who joined the Bharatiya Lok Dal.

Consequences of the Bofors scandal and KBC

Amitabh resigned from politics after the Bofors scandal. While “Big B” had lost its “hero” status in Bollywood, it had a number of hits including Agneepath (1990), Hum (1991), Mohabbatein (2000) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001), the said Report from the Free Press Journal. While his roles in these films weren’t as meaty as they were when he was the only angry young man in the 1970s, Bachchan led his own revival after his television debut as the presenter of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC).

Jaya’s entry into politics

Reportedly, when Amitabh faced a brief period of financial crisis, he received support from an old friend, Amar Singh. At this point the actor leaned towards the Samajwadi party which Amar Singh belonged to. Jaya Bachchan joined the SP in 2004 and is still an MP for Rajya Sabha.

That same year, Jaya was quoted as saying, “Those who got us into politics failed us halfway. You failed us in the middle of a crisis. They have a reputation for betraying people,” in reference to the Gandhis.

Gandhi & Bachchan’s “Cold War”

According to the Free Press Journal report, the Bachchans and Gandhis’ “cold war” involved belittling each other by giving media quotes.

Big B were served with income tax returns and found to have illegally owned farmland during the 2005 Congressional rule. Under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister and member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amitabh became the face of the Khushboo Gujarat Ki campaign in 2010.

This infuriated Congress. “He’s another state’s brand ambassador,” said Maharashtra’s then-CM Ashok Chavan, “and we’d like to promote our state.”

“My only regret”

Years later, in an interview with PTI, Amitabh Bachchan said: “The main reason I think of it is because there are a lot of promises you make during an election campaign when you’re looking for people’s votes. My inability to keep those promises hurts. If there’s one thing I regret, it’s that.”

“I made many promises to the city of Allahabad and its people, but I could not fulfill them. I try to do everything I can in every social aspect, but I know the people of Allahabad will always blame me,” Bachchan was quoted as saying at an event.

With inputs from PTI

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