Mathura: Hema Malini is back in Mathura, which elected her by a massive margin in the general elections this May. She was here last for her thanksgiving trip after the election results. In her absence, posters declaring the Mathura MP "missing" sprang up.
Hema, 65, says, "I don't give this too much importance. Those in opposing parties will always say negative things no matter what you do. What's the point in my just sitting here. I have to go and work, no?"
The actor turned BJP lawmaker drove into the temple town, 160 kilometers from Delhi, in her white Audi SUV on Friday and headed to her office, greeting the crowds jostling for a glimpse of the star. Inside a cramped room with a single, ineffective air conditioner, a different kind of crowd gathered around her table. These were constituents with demands and complaints. Others left outside, banged the door angrily.
When she began a closed-door meeting with local party workers a farmer shouted, "You wanted to work among the people, you came seeking our support, now that we've put you in charge, you want nothing to do with us?"
Hema is just back from a dance tour in the US, which also kept the first-time Lok Sabha MP away from the Budget session of Parliament; she has zero attendance so far in the new House. "I had told my leaders already. I had a prior commitment for the US dance tour...I had maximum attendance as a Rajya Sabha MP. Nobody can criticise me for that. I was always there," the star asserts.
During her election campaign, Hema Malini had called Mathura her spiritual home and promised to spend considerable time there. She is clearly exasperated that she is already being criticised for her absence. "It has only just begun. Why are people so restless?" she asks.
She also adds, "Wherever I went I spoke to a lot of people who are keen to be connected with Mathura. They have already formed a trust in the US and they want to send money here for a number of projects".
Before she drives away, Hema Malini accepts that there is much expectation from the BJP. But she also hopes that her voters understand she's trying to fulfill her promises.