Bollywood and billionaires: India’s rich and famous cast their vote in the world’s largest election

By Rhea Mogul, CNN

CNN  —  Celebrities, industrialists and politicians cast their vote in the world’s biggest democracy as polls opened in India’s financial capital during a weekslong nationwide election, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking another five-year term.

Voting took place in six constituencies across Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra, and 43 others nationwide, on Monday as millions flocked to polling booths to determine who will lead the world’s most populous country.

Across India’s richest city and the birthplace of the Bollywood movie industry, a bevy of celebrities were photographed casting their ballot, showing off purple-streaked index fingers – a sign that determines one has voted in an Indian election.

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, along with his family, leaves a polling booth after casting his ballot in Mumbai on May 20, 2024.

The “King of Bollywood” Shah Rukh Khan was seen leaving a Mumbai polling booth with his family – wife Gauri, daughter Suhana, and sons Aryan and Abram. Elsewhere, one of India’s most famous actors, Amitabh Bachchan, also cast his vote at a polling booth in the suburb of Andheri.

“As responsible Indian citizens we must exercise our right to vote this Monday in Maharashtra,” Khan wrote on X over the weekend. “Let’s carry out our duty as Indians and vote keeping our country’s best interests in mind. Go forth Promote, our right to Vote.”

Film stars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, who are expecting their first child this year, were also pictured, as well as billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani with his wife, Nita and son Akash.

Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone arrive to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mumbai on May 20, 2024.

After casting his vote on Monday, actor Akshay Kumar said he wanted to see India become “developed and strong.”

Showing his ink-stained finger to local reporters, he added: “I voted… India should vote for what they deem is right…I think voter turnout will be good.”

Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan shows her inked finger after casting her ballot at a polling station in Mumbai on May 20, 2024.
Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan at a polling station in Mumbai on May 20, 2024.

But in keeping with previous elections, voter turnout in Mahrashtra on Monday remained low at 54 percent — with 47-55 percent across Mumbai’s six constituencies — according to data from the Election Commission. By comparison, in the northeastern state of West Bengal, some 73 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot, data showed.

The key election players in the city are Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition Indian National Congress, and two rival factions of Shiv Sena — a local ultranationalist grouping that has long played a key role in Mumbai’s politics.

Residents queue to cast their vote on May 20, 2024 in Mumbai, India.

Mumbai, a city of more than 12 million, is often likened to New York and referred to as the “city of dreams,” where millions of migrants from across the country arrive to make their fortune and find purpose.

It’s a city of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, where skyscrapers tower over slum dwellings and poor children beg for money at the windows of chauffeur-driven cars carrying students to school.

And while the rich and famous were seen casting their vote, many migrant workers in the city will be left out of the election.

Voters wait to cast their vote in Chandivali, Mumbai, on May 20, 2024.

Under India’s election rules, eligible voters can only cast ballots in their constituencies – meaning those working outside of their state have to return home to vote. For many out-of-state workers, especially underprivileged daily-wage workers in the unorganized sector, that’s nearly impossible, due to the cost associated with traveling home.

Many voters in Mumbai are concerned with growing inflation and are seeking better education and employment opportunities.

“The change I want to see is, things should become less costly,” 34-year-old grocer Sachin Chaudhary, previously told CNN, adding he also wants to see better opportunities in the employment sector.

CNN’s Jessie Yeung contributed reporting.

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