Actor-Turned-Politician Jaya Prada Joins BJP
Former Samajwadi Party MP and actor Jaya Prada joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and may be fielded as the party's candidate from Rampur constituency to take on her bitter rival and Samajwadi Party nominee Azam Khan.
A two-term Lok Sabha member from the Samajwadi Party, she is a close associate of Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh, who was expelled from the regional party and has since come close to Hindutva fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she described him as a "brave" leader in whose hands the country is “safe.”
BJP sources said she may be fielded in the coming polls but a decision on the seat she will contest from is yet to be finalised.
Speculation has gained ground that she will contest from Rampur as she has been elected from there twice.
Noting that she started her political journey with the Telugu Desam Party and was its Rajya Sabha MP before joining the Samajwadi Party and being elected to Lok Sabha from Rampur, 56-year-old Jaya Prada told reporters that joining the BJP is a "significant" moment in her life and she would now work “dedicatedly” for the saffron party.
Welcoming her into the BJP, its general secretary Bhupendra Yadav said she needed no introduction and added she was impressed with the Modi government.
Of all the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, Rampur has the highest concentration of Muslims, and the BJP has often banked on division of their votes and consolidation of Hindus in its favour to win what is seen as a difficult seat for the saffron party.
Muslims are over 50 percent of the total voters in the constituency.
Riding the Modi wave, BJP's Nepal Singh had won from there in 2014.
With Jaya Prada joining the BJP, the party's "star power" will also be boosted as it already has the likes of Hema Malini and Paresh Rawal in its ranks.
Celebrities help in campaign as their meetings draw good crowds, party leaders said.