The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sidhu opens but Naidu steps in for googly

New Delhi, Feb. 17: India, according to the BJP, is shining and the party today added to the dazzle by roping in some stars.

Jeetendra, Suresh Oberoi, TV actor Gajendra Chauhan and Navjot Singh Sidhu today signed on the dotted line of the BJP’s primary membership form in front of party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and headhunter Pramod Mahajan.

With Naidu by his side, cricketer-turned-commentator Sidhu hogged the soundbites with his verbose asides. He kicked off, as expected, with the coming cricket series in Pakistan.

Justifying the security concerns of a section of the ruling dispensation, Sidhu said: “Government had full right to look after players' security. But what makes people ecstatic'”

“Keeping that in mind, it was decided we would resume our cricket ties with Pakistan. The decision was like a salve on a festering wound. There is no controversy, only security,” the former India player said.

Sidhu recalled his tour of Pakistan as a cricketer.

“I was there in 1989 and Saeed Anwar took me shopping. Of course, a stray incident could be blown out of proportion. But we need to bridge the gap with layers of love,” Sidhu said.

Batting for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former opener said the Prime Minister is the “one individual who can convert obstacles into triumph”.

Sidhu, true to his style, was neither apologetic nor abashed -- just verbose — when asked why he opted for the BJP.

“No party is good or bad, its thinking is what makes a party good or bad. Swans and fish co-exist happily in Mansarovar. BJP is a party of strong principles. The fragrance of a flower only travels in the direction of the wind. But the scent of the BJP has pervaded the whole country.”

“You say the BJP is a principled party. But what do you have to say about Bangaru Laxman’s conduct'” a reporter asked.

Naidu quickly deflected the googly. “He (Sidhu) has started his innings today but you people want to do all your cross-examination today itself.”

Sidhu said he would join only in the last phase of campaigning as he would be in Pakistan anchoring TV shows on the series.

Mahajan introduced Suresh as a member of a family of freedom fighters.

The Hindi film star’s father, Anand Swarup Oberoi, had quit his job in the army after becoming an associate of Bhagat Singh, the BJP leader said.

Suresh, the star of Ek Baar Phir, one of the first Hindi films on extramarital affairs, started off by describing himself as a “deshbhakt (patriot)”.

He, however, chose to wax less on the BJP’s brand of nationalism and more on the NDA propaganda of development.

“India is transformed. Previously, when I went out of the country, people would refer to India with contempt. The same people are (now) speaking with reverence and this is because of the good government and Atalji’s work. So vote for BJP,” the actor said.

As expected and warned by Mahajan, Suresh was asked if his son Vivek and actress Aishwarya Rai, too, would join the BJP.

“They are free to choose their party,” Suresh said.

Gajendra, who played Yudhishtra in B.R. Chopra’s teleserial Mahabharat, said the BJP “is the only party in which everybody from Prime Minister downwards is united. Others fight over small things”.

The second Chauhan — after former cricketer Chetan Chauhan — to be roped into the BJP, Meerut-native Gajendra may be fielded from western Uttar Pradesh.

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