Congress leads star parade -- for once

3/6/2004 12:00:00 AM
After watching the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bringing dozens of celebrities, the Congress party Friday organised its own spectacular starburst of actors and actresses.

In what is turning out to be a tussle for film personalities to make the best impression ahead of the April-May parliamentary polls, the Congress recruited four actresses and two actors, including the veteran comic Asrani.

As former Miss World Yukta Mookhey remained the BJP's only boast for the day, the Congress welcomed into its fold three former beauty queens - Zeenat Aman, Namrata Shirodkar and Celina Jaitley - besides Moushumi Chatterjee.

The still beautiful former child-woman of Hindi movies, Moushumi Chatterjee, said joining the Congress was something she always wanted to do.

"I am a thorough, born Congress supporter - I have always believed in it and so has my family," said the 50-something actress, wondering how anyone could forget the 119-year-old party's role in India's freedom struggle.

"It is the only party that wants everyone to be united. I want all communities in India to get that assurance that they will be safe and prosperous."

Bringing a rare "feel good" moment in the dispirited party, all the stars swore by the party's secular credentials and paid glowing tributes to its line of leadership - former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. And now Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia.

Actor Asrani, who has made millions of Indians giggle helplessly with his antics for over three decades, blasted the BJP's "India Shining" campaign and got shouts of laughter from the media too.

"Who are they to make India shine? The Congress made India shine for 45 years. Fool somebody else, not us!" mocked the much-loved comic. "The Congress is the only all-India party that is present in every corner of the country."

He recounted an encounter with "pilot" Rajiv Gandhi, 12 years before he became prime minister before reminding that it was Congress that brought computers, colour TVs, radios and liberalisation.

Zeenat Aman, Namrata Shirodkar and Celina Jaitley also invoked the names of Nehru-Gandhi greats.

Zeenat Aman said as a person born to a Muslim father and Hindu mother, she wanted for her children to "think, move and work freely in this country".

"I believe in a secular India and that is why I am with the Congress. I am 100 percent with the party," said the actress, who confessed she shared her birthday with that of Indira Gandhi.

Shirodkar made a token mention of Sonia: "She is truly a woman of substance, out to do something for the country."

At BJP, another former beauty queen Yukta Mookhey had a somewhat tough time fending off queries from a group of journalists wearied by the celebrity parade.

After making a little speech that she perhaps last made as a Miss World finalist, Mookhey trilled: "I think the BJP is attractive and beautiful because it has touched the lives of so many people and under its rule the country has progressed. I think BJP should increase its membership fee - it is too less!"