November 30, 2023

Why did Khushbu join BJP, a party she fought tooth and nail for a decade?

What makes Khushbu’s entry into BJP surprising was her untiring fight against the BJP and Sangh groups, especially on Twitter.

Actor-turned politician Khushbu Sundar, who was Congress party’s one of the most vocal leaders on social media, joined the BJP on Monday. What makes Khushbu’s entry into BJP surprising was her untiring fight against the BJP and Sangh groups, especially on Twitter.

She used to reply to each and every ‘enemy’ individually. She used to tag and name Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in her scathing tweets. “She was an untiring fighter for the Congress on social media, a star campaigner, a real crowd puller and powerful orator during polls in public rallies,” said a senior Congress leader.

Who is Khushbu

Born in a Muslim family in West Andheri in Mumbai, she started her acting career in the 1980s as a child artiste. A hard worker and a rationalist, she would call herself an atheist though she exhibits no rigidity against belief or gods. An actor friend of Khushbu jokingly said ‘her problem is that she is a workaholic.’

“She may be simple in her ideological arguments but she is aggressive towards her work. Congress was the best space for her, not even DMK, but that party defeated her. She may be hoping that BJP will provide her a vibrant working space, to do something in social life, however different were her convictions and opinions till yesterday. She needed a better platform,” she said.

What makes Khushbu a politician despite her celebrity background

Khushbu was never a mediocre, apolitical celebrity who aspired to become a politician. Even before she entered politics, she kicked up a controversy – in 2005 – in a Tamil interview for her remarks about pre-marital sex. It was her remark that “our society should come out of the thinking that at the time of the marriage, the girls should be with virginity (sic)…” led to a controversy and there were several cases filed against her. It had taken about five years for her to fight those cases, until she got cleared by two dozen cases by the Supreme Court in early 2010.

When she joined the DMK, late Karunanidhi said Kushbu had been known for her progressive views in films. She was also celebrated as one who acted as Maniyammai, partner of social reformer Periyar in his biographical movie.

Being sidelined by M K Stalin, son of Karunanidhi and the current chief of DMK, Khushbu’s decision to resign from the DMK to join the Congress party was successful. Then party chief of Tamil Nadu, EVKS Elangovan, had used her political talents for the party for over two years, until he himself was ousted from the post. She was the star campaigner of the DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the May 2016 assembly polls as well. Even senior DMK leaders had then congratulated her for the successful campaign she led for Congress candidates in southern Tamil Nadu.

Who gains here, Khushbu or BJP?

Going back to her track record, she was relatively unlucky in her political career. She first entered politics ten years ago when she joined the Dravidian major, the DMK, in the presence of party chief and the then chief minister, late M Karunanidhi in Chennai. It was her first ticket into the world of politics after an active film career that made her one of the most popular female actors of South Indian cinema with over 100 prominent films. Her fans, at one point, had even built a temple for her in Tamil Nadu.

Four years later, in November 2014, she quit the DMK and joined the Congress – a decision that was lauded by many as it was the period when the Congress party started facing a deep crisis within. No career politician was expected to join the national party at that time.

However, what made her quit the DMK and now the Congress had seemingly similar reasons – she was sidelined by powerful leaders of both parties despite the fact that she was more than a usual celebrity-turned-politician. Let it be her command in language or oratory skills in public rallies or political values that made her different from usual actor-turned-politicians, Khushbu was always different and the maturity she had shown was beyond her age for a politician.

The Congress party always had a confused democracy that gave her space to express her opinions in public, even if they were slightly different from party stands. But one of the many reasons that defeated her career in the DMK was reportedly her vocal nature – including a statement from her about the successor of Karunanidhi that irked Stalin.

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Unlike the Congress, a friend of Khushbu said, both the DMK and the BJP are, like left parties, have rigid disciplinary rules that prevent leaders and cadres from going beyond the partyline. “Even if her previous disagreements with BJP can be resolved now, Khushbu’s truthful and spontaneous reactions make her more vulnerable in BJP,” she said.

A senior BJP leader from Tamil Nadu who was not aware about Khushbu’s decision until Sunday night said she is going to be the star campaigner of BJP in Tamil Nadu. “A winnable MLA seat can make her an MLA or even a Rajya Sabha MP post when the time comes,” he said.

A senior Congress leader, who felt that Khushbu was always efficient, ambitious and arrogant in the party, said her presence would help BJP get ‘two votes extra’ in Tamil Nadu. “Nothing more or less. Nothing happened when she worked with the DMK and the Congress, best platforms that suited her life principles. Nothing more will happen in BJP too,” he said.


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