- Khushbu Sundar joined the BJP just months before the Tamil Nadu polls
- Congress said her exit would have "zero damage" in Tamil Nadu
- For the BJP, Khushbu Sundar is a big acquisition in the southern state
Actor-turned-politician Khushbu Sundar, one of the Congress's most prominent defenders, quit the party today and joined the BJP just months before the Tamil Nadu polls. In her resignation letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, she wrote that she felt "pushed and suppressed" by people who had no connect with ground reality.
"Few elements seated at 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," Khushbu Sundar, 50, wrote.
"After a long thorough thought process over a period of time, have decided to end my association with the party," she said. Even before the letter emerged, the Congress had dropped her as spokesperson. The party said her exit would have "zero impact" in Tamil Nadu.
"If the nation has to move forward, then we need somebody like Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take the country in the right direction," Khushbu Sundar told reporters after joining the BJP.
For the BJP, Khushbu Sundar is a big acquisition in the southern state that remains largely out of its grasp.
She had been with the Congress for close to six years since 2014.
Though she was the Congress's visible face in TV debates, Ms Sundar's political career was seen to have stagnated, with the party out of power since 2014.
The BJP is expected to give her a big job for the 2021 assembly election in Tamil Nadu. There are unconfirmed reports of a Rajya Sabha seat. "Khushbu will change the perception of the BJP in Tamil Nadu," said the BJP's Tamil Nadu unit.
Ms Sundar had joined the DMK in 2010 when it was in power. She took the step after playing legendary rationalist leader Periyar's wife Maniammai in a biographical film largely funded by the Tamil Nadu government. At the time, she had said, "I think I made the right decision. I love to serve people. I want to work for the betterment of women."
Four years later in 2014, when she quit the Dravidian party, she said, "Hard work for the DMK had been a one-way path." The same year she joined the Congress after meeting Sonia Gandhi. The actor had then said, "I finally feel I am home. Congress is the only party that could do good for the people of India and unite the country."
Her Congress outing soured rapidly when the party did not field her in last year's national election. The DMK-Congress alliance swept Tamil Nadu. Ms Sundar was not chosen for the Rajya Sabha either.
In her letter to Sonia Gandhi, Ms Sundar said she had joined the Congress when "it was at its lowest" and had been defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha national elections. "I did not walk into the party for any monetary gains, name or fame," she said.
As actor, Khushbu Sundar enjoyed a sizeable fan following. Her fans famously built a temple for her. But she also faced a huge controversy over her comments on chastity.
With Tamil Nadu due for elections in eight months, the BJP, which lacks any charismatic leader in the state, hopes to improve its presence with Khushbu.
The party has also been getting lukewarm vibes from the state's ruling AIADMK on their alliance, which crashed in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The AIADMK is also wary of speculation that the BJP could tacitly back superstar Rajinikanth, who is expected to finally launch his party ahead of the polls.