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Daily Take: Congress makes Dharam garam

April 23, 2004 04:43 IST

Dharmendra, one-time He-man of Hindi films, must be cursing the day someone convinced him to try his hand at politics.

The Jat hero must have thought, and not without good reason, that his entry into the arena would be welcomed with just as much gusto as his entrées into some of his action-packed movies.

But much to his discomfiture, this script has a twist.

Instead of being able to preen and prance his way to glory while brushing aside questions of 'inexperience' and promising to overcome it with enthusiasm and sincerity, much like some other film stars have done in the past, Dharmendra finds himself fighting a more serious battle.

In fact, he is fighting to stay in the battlefield. The rival Congress party is going all out to try and get the star evicted from the arena before the actual fight can begin.

It first raked up the issue of Dharmendra filing an improper declaration along with his nomination form. He had apparently failed to disclose his wife's name while listing the properties owned by her. The Congress, therefore, urged the Election Commission to find out if the properties were owned by his first wife Prakash Kaur or by his second wife, actress Hema Malini aka Ayesha Bi.

Stung, Dharmendra said publicly on television that the assets belonged to his first wife Prakash Kaur. He also declared that he would never stoop to conversion simply to go through with a second marriage.

That was the cue for the Congress to produce a copy of the nikaahnama for the marriage of Dilawar Khan, son of Kewal Krishan, with Ayesha Bi, daughter of R Chakravarti, solemnised in Mumbai on August 21, 1979.

Now the Congress is not only seeking Dharmendra's disqualification, but is also seeking the termination of Hema Malini's membership of the Rajya Sabha on the ground of her alleged illegal marriage. Interestingly, the actress-danseuse had named Dharmendra as her husband when she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

This promises to become another potboiler worthy of such a star cast.

Any of you who thought campaigning was easy, what with all manner of facilities from aircraft to mineral water at the disposal of leaders rushing hither and thither, think again.

Two of India's younger leaders, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti and Congress candidate from Amethi Rahul Gandhi, are the latest victims of the stress and rushed life.

Uma Bharti, 45, complained of chest pain while on a campaign tour of Maharashtra and was admitted to a hospital in Nasik for a checkup.

Rahul Gandhi, 34, had had to suspend his campaign last week because of a viral infection. He returned this week, only to take ill again.

The amazing thing is how veterans like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani go on and on without breaking down.

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan is a man of his word. Literally.

Ever since his bad experience with politics, he has kept the profession at arm's length, even though he remains great friends with many of its practitioners.

During the last assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party of 'younger brother' Amar Singh roped Bachchan in for a blood donation drive, in the hope that his mere presence would improve the party's prospects.

Bachchan later insisted that he had at no stage campaigned for the Samajwadi Party, going so far to say that he had never once uttered its name at any of these 'social events'.

This time too, Bachchan has been true to his word. Literally.

He appears in a television advertisement clearly paid for by the Samajwadi Party, where he exhorts the people of Uttar Pradesh to think and vote carefully for the right candidates who can make their state an uttam pradesh, or excellent province.

At no point does Bachchan so much as suggest that said right candidates could belong to the Samajwadi Party.

But the party's name is not left to the imagination. Because when Bachchan visage leaves the screen, the Samajwadi Party's flag and election symbol appear and a voiceover (not Amitabh) tells the viewer to vote for the Samajwadi Party to realise their dream of an uttam pradesh.

So Amitabh can continue to claim that he does not campaign for any party, while the Samajwadi Party can continue to reap the benefits of its association with the actor. If only they would credit the voter with some intelligence and be honest about their association.

Earlier Editions:
Daily Take: Against the popular will
Daily Take: Rajni has spoken
Daily Take: India flexes electoral muscles

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