Friday, May 1, 2009

Bollywood stars vote in India's general election

MUMBAI (AFP) — Bollywood stars on Thursday turned out in force to vote in India's general election, urging people to exercise their democratic right and make their voices heard.

Among the big names to cast their ballots at a school in the upscale Bandra West area of north Mumbai were leading actor-director Aamir Khan, megastars Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and his family, plus screen hunk John Abraham.

"Being an Indian it is our duty to come out and vote," said Aamir Khan, whose blockbuster film "Ghajini" recently became the highest grossing Hindi-language film of all time.

"We should elect good people... who don't divide the country. We should elect clean and honest people in politics," he added, as Mumbai went to the polls in the third phase of India's five-stage, month-long election.

Shahrukh Khan, who held the previous Bollywood box office record with "Om Shanti Om," said voters should choose the best-qualified candidates and be patient for change.

"People expect politicians to solve problems immediately. But it's not that easy. It takes time. That's why we should vote and give a chance to better people," he said.

Abraham echoed Aamir Khan, calling for stable government and reminding voters in the world's biggest democracy that they can make a difference.

"After 26/11 (the November 26 Islamist militant attacks on Mumbai) you saw the power of democracy. People were very angry against the government. The chief minister (of Maharashtra state) had to resign," he told reporters.

"That's the power of democracy," the "Dostana" (Friendship) star added, urging as many young people as possible to vote.

Actress Shilpa Shetty, who owns a share in the Rajasthan Royals cricket team, said she could not make it to vote as she was in South Africa, where the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament is being played.

But she wrote on her blog that "now is the time to make the decision, don't waste your democratic right to choose."