Thursday, February 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong objects to PM’s remarks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 20
The Congress has “deplored” Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s remarks about BJP winning the Assembly poll in UP even without the support of Muslims, saying that the comments had dangerous implications.

Congress chief spokesman Jaipal Reddy said today that the Prime Minister’s statement had two dangerous overtones. “One is that the Muslims, who are the single-biggest religious minority, are a dispensable political commodity, and second, it is an attempt to divide people and polarise them on communal lines,” he said.

Maintaining that the Congress was a party representing all sections of society, Mr Reddy said Prime Minister’s statements amounted to appealing to the communal instincts of people. Taking objection to Mr Vajpayee’s remarks, Mr Reddy said he was only not the leader of the BJP but also Prime Minister of the country. “Such tactics cannot be allowed to be adopted,” Mr Reddy said.

Referring to statement of Defence Minister George Fernandes that certain people were preventing the Defence Ministry from acquiring long-delayed AJTs, Mr Reddy said that Fernandes should disclose identity of those standing in the way of acquiring AJTs.

Mr Reddy parried questions on the Congress stand on “recognising” Mr Fernandes as Defence Minister. The party had boycotted him in Parliament in the last session. He said the decision about boycotting Mr Fernandes was a tactical move. “Our floor tactics (in Parliament) were a strong political protest over the re-induction of Mr Fernandes,” Mr Reddy said. 


Poonam Dhillon joins Cong
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 20
If it is Vinod Khanna for the BJP, it could well be Poonam Dhillon for the Congress. The tall Punjabi beauty, who joined the Congress today, becomes the first Bollywood heroine to join the Congress in almost two decades. In fact, no Bollywood star has joined the Congress after Rajesh Khanna came to the party in the early nineties.

A former Miss India, Ms Dhillon, 37, met Congress President Sonia Gandhi today before she signed up as a member of the party.

Having campaigned for the Congress candidates in Punjab, Ms Dhillon said she had no political ambitions. “I will do whatever duty is assigned to me by the party,” she told The Tribune.

Rejecting the notion about film stars joining politics after they stop getting good roles in Bollywood, Ms Dhillon who has studied in Chandigarh, said it took a while for their political choices to mature. “I have been socially very conscious and have been involved with work for the blind and poor. Being in politics would enable me to work for people on a larger scale,” she said.

Giving her reasons for joining the Congress, Ms Dhillon said, “It is a national party which gives a complete feeling of secularism. As a woman, I feel Ms Sonia Gandhi will be a great leader.”

But being in politics, Ms Dillion has no plans to give up acting. She, however, admitted that she was not getting good roles for the past some years.

It was Congress leader T. Subbi Rama Reddy, a Bollywood producer, who was instrumental in influencing Ms Dhillon to join the Congress. “Film stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini and Shabana Azmi have not joined any political party even though they may be taking part in campaigning. It is not usual for a heroine to join a political party,’’ he said.

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