The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ballot can wait, let the beauties battle it out
- Congress finally matches BJP’s star power with showbiz blast from the past and the present

New Delhi, March 5: Whoever dared to declare that Elections 2004 is all about Atal versus Sonia needs to brush up his politics. The battle has boiled down to Miss Congress versus Miss BJP.

Busy raiding the glitzy — and in some cases dusty — shelves of showbiz, India’s principal political parties today paraded a bevy of powdered faces, presumably to lock eyeballs in what is being touted as the most youthful election ever.

On the Congress catwalk at the otherwise staid headquarters on 24 Akbar Road were original glamour girl Zeenat Aman and current beauty queens Celina Jaitley and Namrata Shirodkar. Sharad Kapoor of Josh fame also threw his weight behind the party, comedy king Asrani provided the punchlines and Moushumi Chatterjee offered to contest.

Latecomer Congress chose to make up for lost time by picking a handful of former Miss Indias, while the BJP crowded its cast further by roping in former Miss World — Yukta Mookhey.

Moushumi joined the party and said she was ready to fight the election. “I can contest not only from West Bengal but anywhere in the country.” The others have not joined as of now but said they would campaign for the party.

If half-a-dozen catches on a single day were not enough to make the Congress feel good, Asrani’s words surely were.

Twisting his Sholay dialogue, the actor said: “Thode idhar jao, thode udhar jao and baaki Congress ke peechhe aao.”

If a few stars had made their way to the BJP and a few others to other parties, the rest would be with the Congress, he suggested.

Party strategists had belatedly realised that the BJP, by roping in star after yesteryear star, was building a poll hawa (wave) in its favour in an election in which a large number of voters is young.

Hema Malini and Dharmendra, Jeetendra and Suresh Oberoi, Poonam Dhillon and Smriti Malhotra Irani have pledged support to the party.

As glamour shone bright, Asrani took a potshot at the India Shining campaign. “These people (NDA leaders) are polishing what the Congress did in the last 45 years,” he laughed.

Asrani, like Zeenat, said he had always associated himself with the party of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Zeenat, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Brahmin mother, said secularism was one of the reasons she was drawn to the party. She also shared her birthday with Indira Gandhi, the actor said.

Calcutta boy Sharad thought only the Congress could put India on top of the world. Celina, who also took the Calcutta route to Miss India and Bollywood, said the party stands for the country’s youth. Another Miss India, Namrata, was highly impressed by Sonia Gandhi who, she believed, was trying to do something for the country.

Buoyed by the Friday box-office blast, pulled off by Rajya Sabha member T. Subbarami Reddy who had roped in Shakti Kapoor on Tuesday, the Congress is now hungry for more. Another Rajya Sabha member, Suresh Kalmadi, has joined the Bollywood hunt. A third Rajya Sabha member, Rajiv Shukla, is also offering his services as headhunter as the Congress takes on the BJP in star power.

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