Chennai: Actor and television personality Khushbu Sundar put an end to speculation on Monday, by first tendering her resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and also joining the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi.

Formally joining the party in the presence of Tamil Nadu BJP president Murugan, national spokesperson Sambit Patra among others, she spoke about having realized what is good for the country, after having been in politics for 10 years.

“Nation has to move forward and we need somebody like Modiji to take the country in the right direction and to its glory,” she said, promising her service to the party. Sundar was born Nakhat Khan.

While she lashed out at unnamed Congress leaders in her resignation letter, she also mentioned that she was grateful to Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi for having given her the opportunity. But it needs to be noted that she made mention of ‘few elements seated at higher levels within the party, people who have no connectivity with the ground reality or public recognition’. She said that she was being “pushed and suppressed” by those persons.

Interestingly, shortly after she made the switch to the saffron party, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) president K S Alagiri, remarked that she was an actress with popularity, but lacked political popularity. He added that they were not bothered about her move and that the Congress party cadre was not worried.

It must be noted that this is the actress’ third political innings. She had made her political debut by joining the DMK in the presence of the party’s patriarch and then chief minister M Karunanidhi in 2010. Back then, it was her belief in DMK’s ideology, which is rooted in Periyar’s ideas, that led her into politics. In a 2007 biopic titled Periyar, she had even played the role of Periyar’s wife Maniyammai. Karunanidhi had even remarked that the actor was a person with progressive ideas.

In 2014, she quit the DMK after claiming to have been sidelined. She then joined the Congress party in November 2014, months after the party suffered its most humiliating defeat ever. Serving as Congress’ national spokesperson, she had been a regular at English television debates, an active critic of the BJP on and off social media.

While there have been talks of the actor’s decision to quit the Congress for quite some time, it had come to the fore in July when she backed the Central government’s draft New Education Policy. She had even tweeted an apology to Rahul Gandhi for the same. This hadn’t gone well with senior leaders and they had openly lashed out at her regarding the contrarian stance.

Until last week, she had been extremely vocal on social media in lashing out against the BJP and its leaders in light of the Hathras rape and murder, the handling of the economy and the three Farm bills (now laws). She had also been re-tweeting posts of Rahul Gandhi and speaking in his support, pertaining to his visit to the bereaved family in Hathras. But, a week is a long time in politics.

Barely six months ahead of the all-important assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, Khushbu has jumped ship and joined the BJP. Senior AIADMK leader and Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar to extend his wishes. “It is a good and happy move by her”, he said on the actor having joined the BJP, which is in a formal alliance with the AIADMK since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. While it has been the BJP’s Tamil Nadu strategy to induct more and more people from various realms into the party, it will be interesting to see the real impact that they have in the land that has been the bastion of Dravidian parties for more than 50 years. 

While this is a much talked about move, observers feel that it would have a near-nil impact and is only a matter of perception. Senior political analyst Kolahala Srenivaas pointed out that Khushbu had joined the Congress in the presence of Sonia Gandhi, but whereas in the BJP, she had been inducted in the presence of Sambit Patra, a spokesperson. Only after joining did she get the opportunity to meet BJP president J P Nadda.

“Right at the time of joining the party, they have shown her, her place. Khushbu is likely to be deputed for groundwork and propaganda ahead of the polls, for which she would be given an MLA seat to contest from. She can pull crowds for the BJP, but it remains a question whether she will be able to get the vote, especially at a time when there is a raging pandemic that prevents gatherings,” he told Zee Media.

While there have been former government officials and other actors joining the Tamil Nadu BJP in recent times, it must be noted that Khushbu is unique for the fact that she has a pan-India appeal as an actress. Having acted in over 200 films, not only in the four Southern languages but also in Hindi and Bhojpuri, she is indeed a notch above the others.

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An eloquent speaker, she can also spread the party’s message quite effectively, but it’s anyone’s guess if she can prove to be a game-changer in Tamil Nadu, where the BJP is striving hard to even find a solid base.

“From the perspective of political loss for one party and gain for another party, there is nothing much. It is only that the BJP can claim to have gained something in the perception battle, ahead of the polls,” senior journalist and political analyst Dr Sumanth C Raman told Zee Media.

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