Hours before actor and politician Khushboo was set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief KS Alagiri found himself at the receiving end of several questions. Why was the spokesperson and one of the most recognisable faces in the party leaving the Congress? And how will this affect the party?
Alagiri remained stoic as the media confronted him on Monday with uncomfortable questions but his words were cutting. "Her leaving is not a loss for Congress. We have no connection with her. Congress workers paid attention to her because she is an actor, they did not see her as a political leader. Even now it seems she has gone to the BJP asking for a position, they never came to her," he said.
This animosity expressed by the state president, TNM learns through Congress sources, is part of the reason for Khusbhoo's abrupt departure from the party. In her letter of resignation to the Congress party, the actor clearly stated that she was 'pushed and suppressed' in the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.
â€œFew elements seated at a higher level within the party, people who have no connectivity with the ground reality or public recognition are dictating terms and people like me who wanted to work for the party sincerely, are being pushed and suppressed," she alleged.
And in an interview after she officially joined the BJP, Khushboo refused to name the persons she was referring to but said that at both the state and national level, leaders who were responsible for her decision would feel the 'guilt'.
Speaking to TNM, a senior leader Congress says, "Under the previous state chief EVKS Elangovan she was given a lot of importance and made the face of the party. But the treatment when Alagiri took over was different."
According to reports, the Congress leadership in the state didn't invite Khusboo to some events and attempted to sideline her.
"But she had a meeting with KC Venugopal (Congress Rajya Sabha MP) and the matter was sorted out. Her decision comes as a surprise to us as well," he says. The senior leader further adds that reports over Khusboo about not getting party tickets to contest polls are false. "During the Lok Sabha elections we gave her some options from the limited choices that we had but she didn't want any of the seats offered. We are not aware of what her ambitions for the assembly elections are," he adds.
A senior Congress leader from Karnataka who has worked closely with Khushboo tells TNM that the Tamil Nadu Congress failed to utilise her correctly.
"Due to the rampant sexism, efforts made by Khushboo to take an active part in strategy and planning were brushed away by senior leaders in the state. She wanted to be more than just a spokesperson or an English speaking face for the party. She had electoral ambitions but was not given her due despite her eloquence and political acumen," explains the leader. "She could have been more but they weren't letting her grow. She could have become an AICC office bearer but her efforts were repeatedly trampled," she adds.
Some senior Congress leader further allege the involvement of her husband and director Sundar C in her decision to switch loyalites.
Goppana further states that Khushboo had been slowly avoiding party events and always claimed to be at a shoot or abroad when invited.
But a senior leader in the party tells TNM that for a woman in politics, growth is always hard.
"For a woman it is always going to be difficult to grow in a party. Khushboo was definitely a liberal and I don't know why she took this decision but irrespective of where she goes, there are going to be hurdles," says the leader. "In such a situation it is your belief in the ideology of the party that sustains your fight. I was not aware that she was facing problems within the party but there is no guarantee that another party could solve these issues," adds the leader.
Congress leaders further allege that the actor's decision shows that she is morally corrupt and willing to give up on an ideology for money, power and fame. In a meeting with reporters after she officially joined the BJP however, Khushboo claimed that her ideology remains the same.
"I have only changed my party but not my ideology," Khushboo told the Tamil media. She admitted that she had criticised both the Prime Minister and Home Minister at multiple instances but claimed that she was merely doing her job as an opposition leader. "As part of the Opposition, I had to find faults and point it out. I had no choice but to do that even if I wasn't completely satisfied with it because that was the party line," she added. She further claimed that allegations of her husband's involvement was just a reflection of the Congress leadership's 'thinking'.
When asked about the BJPâ€™s contribution toTamil Nadu, Khushboo said, "I have just come. Ask me again in six months."
(With inputs from Theja Ram)