Union Minister Smriti Irani is the latest BJP leader to attack actor Deepika Padukone over her visit to Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) this week. The actor had "made her political affiliation known in 2011 that she supports the Congress party", Ms Irani said on Thursday. Since her visit to the university, Deepika Padukone has been at the receiving end of immense criticism from members of the ruling BJP as well as a section of social media users.
"I think that anybody who has read the news knew where you are going to stand... knew that you are standing with people who celebrate every time a CRPF jawan is killed," Ms Irani said at an event organised by The New Indian Express in Chennai. "I would rather know what her (Deepika Padukone's) political affiliation is than not know... I can't deny her that right that she will stand next to people who will beat up other girls who don't see eye-to-eye ideologically in private parts. That's her freedom (sic)," she said.
"She made her political affiliation known in 2011 that she supports the Congress party," the Union Minister said. "It's her right (to) stand next to people who say Bharat tere tukde honge," Ms Irani added. The Union Minister's 2011 reference was to an old interview of Ms Padukone being shared by her critics, in which she apparently backs Rahul Gandhi for Prime Minster.
Smriti Irani is the first top BJP leader to hit out at Ms Padukone for her JNU visit.
Deepika Padukone, who was in Delhi to promote her new movie "Chhapaak" that released today, visited JNU on Tuesday evening and stood with the protesters without saying anything. In a particularly poignant image, the actor was seen with her hands folded before Aishe Ghosh, the JNU student leader who was badly wounded in the masked mob attack on Sunday.
The superstar's surprise move in solidarity with students injured in the mob attack caused a firestorm and sharply divided social media. Her silent participation in the protest has been praised as well as criticised. Support for the actor pushed back against calls for boycotting her new movie. One BJP leader, Tajinder Bagga, even urged people to boycott the film.
"So the original #TukdeTukdeGang will stand in support and solidarity for the photocopy #TukdeTukdeGang. Can anyone enumerate the names of those from Bollywood/Khan-market-gang who are planning to fly to Lahore to extend their well meaning support," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had tweeted on Wednesday.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, asked to react to his party leaders' comments, said on Wednesday: "Why only artistes, any common man can go anywhere to express his opinion, there cannot be any objection."