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'Swadeshi bahu' joins BJP to take on 'videshi bahu'

Smriti, who plays Tulsi in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi is the latest tool of campaign against Sonia.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2003 18:44 IST

The "ideal" Indian daughter-in-law of the idiot box on Saturday debuted as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s tool of campaign against the foreign origins of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Smriti Malhotra Irani, who plays the long-suffering, sacrificing and generous matriarch "Tulsi" in STAR TV's daily soap Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, joined the BJP ahead of the December 1 polls in four northern states where her histrionics enjoy sizeable following.

"She will take up the cause of the 'Swadeshi Bahu' (Indian daughter-in-law) against the 'Videshi Bahu' (foreigner daughter-in-law)," said BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Malhotra maintained she knew what she was doing and that she was joining a party that shared her belief in consensus.

In the serial, Tulsi is currently suffering from amnesia and is separated from her extended family. But the television actress insisted she had a very sound memory in real life.

"And my memory is that of the BJP that has always maintained the tradition of national consensus on every issue relating to the country," said the 27-year-old mother of two.

The sari-clad former Miss India, who is proficient in six languages including German, was obviously well prepared with her lines.

She exuded confidence and did not flinch while fielding queries ranging from the overwhelmingly star-struck to the sceptically controversial.

Asked why she, the embodiment of the quintessential woman, was joining a party that opposed a woman (Sonia Gandhi) because of her foreign origins, she replied after the tiniest of pauses: "Well, the country as a whole gives me respect as a woman -- I respect all women, but it is not a question of whether it is a man or a woman. Will our self-esteem allow us to be ruled by a foreigner? That is the real question."

She described herself as the "upright daughter-in-law" of TV.

Irani's induction comes at a time when the BJP needs all the star value it can add to its campaign for the assembly polls.

The BJP is apparently counting on her proficiency in at least three northern Indian languages, apart from her larger than life small screen persona to sway voters.

What had she been promised in return for joining the BJP?

"I have been promised an opportunity to put into action what I want to do for the people of India. What I want to do for the oppressed women, for underprivileged children, the downtrodden... that is what the BJP seniors and leaders have promised me," she glibly replied.

Her closest brush with politics before this was covering the Gujarat and Goa elections last year as an assistant director for a private news channel.

Perhaps as a precursor to her new avatar as a celebrity who cares, Irani recently turned host of a talk show on social issues.

First Published: Nov 16, 2003 00:30 IST