The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A seat and a party on birthday
- New-MP Hema pledges support to BJP

New Delhi, Oct. 16: “Dream Girl” Hema Malini celebrated her 55th birthday today by agreeing to lend star power to the BJP’s Assembly poll campaign.

“I will definitely campaign for the party in the coming Assembly elections even though I have not joined the party as yet,” she said at a reception after being sworn in a Rajya Sabha member this morning.

BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu unveiled Hema to the media in her new avatar as MP at his home with the quip: “It is the birth of a politician.”

Hema, in a peach silk sari with black sequinned border, flowing hair and without a spot of make-up, arrived to the welcome of a mini-fan club.

The “reception committee” included Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda, his predecessor Babulal Marandi, Union ministers Jual Oram, Bandaru Dattatreya and P. Radhakrishnan, and BJP general secretaries Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Anita Arya.

Hema said she would speak on art, culture, tourism and cinema and promised to live up to people’s “expectations” by the “grace of god” after the most “memorable” birthday of her life.

But when she started answering a question on her reaction to the rape of a European diplomat outside the venue of the 34th International Film Festival here, Naidu stepped in. “I feel bad about it,” she started and ended.

Naidu insisted the get-together was not “political”. “In politics, as in life, let us have some light moments,” he said.

The BJP’s politics of social symbolism, however, was on display on the dais. There was Arya, a Dalit, S.S Ahluwalia, a Sikh, Naqvi, a Muslim, apart from Naidu and Hema. Naidu later said Ahluwalia was invited as he is the BJP’s chief whip in the Upper House.

The BJP leadership’s soft spot for film stars was evident at the gathering as the evening wore on and more of them arrived — fashionably late.

Former Telugu Desam Party MP Jaya Prada was first in. Hema’s junior industry colleague, in black flared trousers and a kurti, took a seat on the dais.

BJP sources emphasised that her presence was not political, but social. She was Naidu’s invitee, they said.

After the Desam denied Jaya Prada renomination, the actress has reportedly been courting every party, including the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, but with little luck.

Next came minister of state for external affairs Vinod Khanna. He sat on a corner of the podium as the not-so-wide dais was almost overflowing by then.

Naqvi had already been edged out by new Rajya Sabha nominated member, journalist Chandan Mitra.

Nitish Bharadwaj, the BJP’s former Lok Sabha member, joined the party last. The Krishna of B.R. Chopra’s television serial, Mahabharat, however, had to share space with the crowd below the dais.

Bharadwaj, whose political record has not been remarked upon much, however, caught the crowd’s attention with his numerous earrings and bright, printed kurta.

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