The most recent entrant into politics is someone who's known for often being politically incorrect – Salman Khan. In Unnao to campaign for Congress candidate Anu Tandon, Salman looked relaxed and fresh in a tee and jeans, his biceps on show. Standing by a French window before hitting the campaign trail, basking in the early morning sun, Salman sported a pony reminiscent of rival Shah Rukh Khan.
The relaxed attitude belied his busy schedule – he had to cover five locations and meetings till late at night, but he answered questions with patience and good humour. Is this the first time he's out campaigning for someone? “Yes,” he says. As an afterthought, he adds, “I'm not here to canvass or campaign.” But he's associated himself with a political party. “I'm here to associate with Anu. And to connect with the people,” he replies.
But what's in it for him? “I'm from Indore – I was born there and eventually came to Panvel (in Mumbai), so I know what happens there, how the people there are. But to leave all that, a cushy life, the whole social scene in Mumbai, and work with the masses in villages, needs guts. I've known Anu for a very long time and I know the amount of work she's done for the people, so I wanted to add my bit to it,” he says. “A lot of people say they'll do this, they'll do that, but how many eventually get down to doing it? I want to go back to the place where I came from and make sure that the people come out from such small places, the way I have. What extra do I have? The same education, the same lifestyle, we're born in the same place. But it's all about opportunities. I want people to have that. That's what there is in this for me.”
He's clearly not finished. “Bahut log hote hain jo aag lagate hain. Hum (Anu and Salman) aag bujhane ka kaam kar rahe hain, by interacting with the people and telling them that we're one of their own. We're like them. We're not special.”
But why the Congress? “Because I believe in the leadership. I believe that Rahul Gandhi will go a long way. He has the ability to lead the country.” And does he have an opinion on the other Gandhi – Varun's – statements? “I'd just like to say that my father is a Muslim and my mother is a Hindu,” he says.
He says he marvels at Anu for having left her home, husband and two children in Mumbai to work for the people. “I salute such women. Any man would have thrown a fit if his wife were to do this. I know, my father has two wives. I mean, for my father, it would have been easy – do biwiyan hain, ek bahar chali bhi gayi toh doosri toh hai – but for Anu's husband to have supported her in her endeavours is praiseworthy