"Madam, I know elections are after 4 yrs, but can u visit gurdaspur during the crisis...it's been a year since u came," nobody@DentWoods tweeted to four-time Gurdaspur member of Parliament (MP) and Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna's wife Kavita Khanna on July 26 after the Dinanagar terror attack.
Kavita's tweet "Am so sad about the Gurdaspur attack. Feel very bad that @vinod khanna and I can't travel due to his health. Will come as soon as we can" provoked another angry tweet from @gurpreetkchadha "Are u serious? People have lost their lives and u are giving the silliest excuse."
Khanna's absence had also evoked angry posts on the Facebook page the Pride of India-Shri Vinod Khanna Ji created by his fans. An angry resident of Gurdaspur had attributed Khanna's absence to shooting in Europe for a film. "I was tagged in one of the FB posts on Khanna wherein someone had commented that Khanna was busy shooting for a film and they should not have helped him during the elections. I had to reply that he is not shooting but undergoing treatment for 10 days," says the MP's cousin Vivek Khanna, who terms people questioning the MP's absence "ridiculous".
"In the past 13 months, Vinod has been in Gurdaspur 16 times. He has a house and an office there. He is not holidaying but is under treatment in Europe. He is being treated for severe colitis (inflammation of the colon) and chronic sciatica. He will be back by Sunday and attend the Parliament session on Monday. He will then travel to Gurdaspur with the entire family, perhaps closer to the day of the "bhog" ceremony of those killed in the terror attack. He has been in touch with people over phone and we have visited hospitals to meet the injured and made him speak to them. The symbolism of rushing back is not more important than his health," said Vivek.
Khanna's political secretary Samrendra Sharma puts the date of Khanna's arrival to India as August 4. "He will try to come to Gurdaspur as soon as he lands in India. The family has issued a statement about Khanna's ill-health and he himself has been tweeting his concerns on the attack. He also asked the people to stay calm when there was a bomb scare on Thursday. As part of his political team, we are doing whatever is possible," Sharma said.
The actor-MP's absence has also fuelled speculation on the gravity of his illness, with rumours of the disease being "life-threatening". There is also talk of it being 68-year-old Khanna's last election from the border district. But his family denies this and say these are being spread by his political rivals. "He will be over 72-73 years by the time of the next Lok Sabha elections. He will then take a call whether he wants to retire or re-contest. He loves Gurdaspur and its people. Not contesting is not even in his thought process right now," Vivek said.