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The Rediff Election Interview/Television actor Sudha Chandran

March 01, 2004

Well known as Ramola Sikand from the television soap Kaahin Kissi Roz, she now dons a new role for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Sudha Chandran, who shot to fame with her true-to-life role in Nache Mayuri, will campaign for the BJP if all goes well. The actor-turned-party member says she genuinely believes the BJP is a party with a difference.

"Since my childhood I always knew that India was a land of scarcity but this has changed ever since the BJP started ruling our country," she says.

A dancer, Sudha lost her leg after an accident in 1981 but fought against all odds to regain her former life, finding glory in the process. With the aid of the Jaipur foot, she made it big in Nache Mayuri and undeterred, began another part of her life.

"The BJP has a positive outlook towards the country and that is my philosophy towards life. I never give up," she told Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

Why did you join the BJP?

My life ideology is very similar to the party's ideology. In the last five years they had a goal and they achieved it. Similarly, after I met with an accident and lost my leg, I too set a goal for myself and achieved it. Besides that, I felt there is no scarcity in India today.

I have lived in this country since my birth. If you recall India always was a land of scarcity. Yeh nahi hai who nahi hai, line sab jagah lagi hai. Ration nahi hai, light nahi hai poverty hai. There were so many things like this but in the last five years everything has disappeared. There is no scarcity in the country and everything is available.

I feel honoured to be in this party, especially because I really admire Vajpayeeji. He has a vision like no other person in this country.

Don't you feel the feel good factor is only meant for the privileged?

Not really. You see Venkaiahji (BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu) said even his carpenter has a cell phone. He observed that when the carpenter came to repair a chair at his home. I don't think a carpenter is from the middle or upper middle class.

Today, my spot boy, makeup man, everyone around me has a cell phone. You demand a telephone and it is at your doorstep. You call for a car loan, it is at your doorstep, so everything is available to you in India today.

I remember my father used to beg for a loan to buy a house. He had to beg the banks for a loan. Today this has changed and banks are approaching you. Life has certainly become better now in India. So definitely there is a feel good factor.

You are talking about the cities, but what about the villages? Do you think there has been a change there? Is the feel good factor catching up there too?

I come from Kerala and there too there is a feel good factor. This is true for all of south India, which I know well. Mumbai represents all classes and everyone is happy here today. A movement has begun because of the BJP and they did all this in five years' time. Therefore, I feel they should be given more time to rule our country.

Ramola Sikand, the role you are currently known for on television, is a vamp.

What I play is my bread and butter. But in politics I will play a different role. People obviously don't relate me to my character in the serial. They see me as Sudha Chandran. My screen presence is important because accessibility to masses is easy then.

You mentioned you would like to do a lot for disabled people in our country after joining the BJP.

This is my purpose to join politics. I am not here to make it big. I don't know whether I will be successful but I want to highlight this issue. There are 60 million disabled people in our country. This is a sizeable population in our country. I know their pain and don't think anyone will know their pain better (than me).

I say so because I have gone through the same thing. I have joined the BJP to help disabled people.

How will the BJP help you in your mission?

Vajpayeeji set up a one-man commission to handle the affairs for handicapped people in his tenure. I would like to develop my work on the same lines. I acted in Nache Mayuri;to prove that I can do as well as any normal person. It took me another 20 years to prove myself as an actress.

When I joined the BJP a blind man called me and said, 'Though I cannot see you I feel you are doing a great thing for handicapped people. He further said, 'Umeed ki kiran kahin se to jaagi hai'  (A ray of hope has emerged from somewhere).That is what I am looking for.

If you join a political party and get a platform then India won't have only one Sudha Chandran but many other Sudha Chandrans. After all, disabled people have a sixth sense too. We need to tap it. They will be able to do wonders because I have broken all the myths about the disabled after my accident. 

Do you believe in the construction of a Ram Mandir at the place where the Babri Masjid once stood in Ayodhya?

I don't believe in commenting on all these things. I am too small fry. I have just put my tiny step in politics. I only need guidance from veterans like Venkaiahji and Vajpayeeji. My only concern is about handicapped people in this country. I have set an example from my life and now I need the infrastructure to help others.

What about campaigning?

I have just joined the party. The party will decide what I must do for them. I don't know where to campaign and what to do in life. I am not here to contest elections. I only want to highlight to the people what this government can offer to the citizens of this country.

You think the Congress can't do that?

I believe in the BJP's positive attitude, therefore I am in this party.

Do you think Sonia's foreign origin is a problem to you?

I don't want to comment on this issue. I told you I am in politics because I want to do something for disabled people in our country.

India is divided into two sectors -- the North/Eastern sector is doing badly while Western/Southern India is doing well. Don't you feel so?

That is what I am saying. In five years they cannot do miracles. When I wanted to play Ramola people said I couldn't do it because I could only do emotional roles. But Ektaa Kapoor gave me a break and I proved myself in the role of Ramola. She gave me scope.

So that is what I am saying -- give another chance to the BJP and they will change things in this country.

Don't you think Mr Vajpayee's position on Pakistan is very inconsistent? He talks of war and then suddenly goes for this peace initiative?

Forget the past. Look at this way. At the end of the day he has extended a hand of friendship. He is looking forward for friendship and peace so you must give credit to him.

There are reports that there is growth in unemployment in the country.

No, I don't agree. It was published in the London papers that India has 1.7 million (new) jobs today. So there is no unemployment.

But that is in the Business Process Outsourcing sector.

So that means there are employment opportunities in our country. You cannot say there is unemployment in the country. BJP President Venkaiah Naidu presented a database to the media stating there are ample job opportunities in the country. So it is wrong to say there is jobless growth in India.

Recently there was a vacancy for 750 policemen in Mumbai, 15,000 people applied for the job. Don't you feel that this figure justifies the fact that there are many jobless people in the country?

Jobs are being created. Give the BJP breathing space. You gave your vote to one party for the last 50 years so give the BJP another chance.

Do you think your popularity can translate into votes for the BJP?

I am working towards it. We celebrities are human beings at the end of the day. We are doing it for the BJP as citizens of this country. Celebrity status is only to get the audience but the final vote depends on people. But as citizens of this country we have the right to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Vajpayee.

You gave the example of Mr Naidu's carpenter using a cell phone. Do you have any more examples?

My bai[maid] calls from her cellphone when she is working in the neighbour's house and asks whether she can come to work or not. This is a major change in India. You look at slums -- they have almost been eradicated in Mumbai. They have washing machines, colour televisions, refrigerators. They are blessed with everything.

Won't you agree that the standard of living is low?

You see it is progressing with time. It is not stagnant. There is development. A miracle will not happen in five years.

Will you stop shooting during the election campaign?

I have my professional commitments and political commitments. Acting is my bread and butter. Let the high command tell me what they want me to do, then I will see what I can do for them.

Image: Uday Kuckian

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