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Hema Malini joins BJP

By Our Special Correspondent



Film actress and Rajya Sabha member Hema Malini with the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Venkaiah Naidu, after she joined the party in New Delhi on Thursday. - Photo: V. Sudershan

NEW DELHI, FEB. 19. The Rajya Sabha MP and the "dream girl'' of Bollywood at one time, Hema Malini, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party today. She said that her husband, Dharmendra, also a former star, would campaign for the party in the Lok Sabha elections.The actress had campaigned for the BJP candidate and film star, Vinod Khanna, in the 1999 elections in Gurdaspur, Punjab.

She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha last year. To queries from the press, party leaders said that any nominated MP was free to join a party within six months of the nomination.

Expressing "great admiration'' for the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Hema Malini did not want to answer political questions. Asked about her views on the Ram temple dispute, she quickly found a way to escape by saying that she had not joined politics "in a big way.'' "Will she or her husband contest the elections?" She did not think so, but left it to the BJP to decide. The party president, Venkaiah Naidu, and general secretaries, Pramod Mahajan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, were present at the party office when Hema Malini was formally made a member of the party.

Later, Mr. Naidu inaugurated a computerised election control room at the party office.

Mr. Naidu lashed out at the Congress for launching a campaign to counter the Vajpayee Government's "India Shining" advertisement series.

Reacting to the Congress' "India Cheated" campaign, he promised to "expose" 50 years of misdeeds of the Congress.

He claimed that the Congress-ruled States had spent more of the taxpayers' money on advertisements than the Vajpayee Government.

`Privileges not sought'

PTI reports:

The BJP has not written to the Election Commission seeking extension of the privileges enjoyed by the Prime Minister during electioneering to the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Naidu said today. ``We have not written any letter,'' he told reporters when asked if the party wanted Mr. Advani also to avail himself of IAF aircraft during electioneering.

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