Actor Urmila Matondkar is set to start her second innings in politics after her first one came to an abrupt end last year.
The Shiv Sena has picked her for nomination to the state legislative council with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi set to recommend the 46-year-old actor’s name along with 11 others to the Governor.
Matondkar, who contested the Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai North last year on a Congress ticket, had lost the seat to BJP’s Gopal Shetty. She later quit the Congress, saying “her efforts to work for the betterment of the party did not find support”.
In a “confidential” letter, Matondkar had complained to the Congress high command that some party leaders who did not help her in the 2019 polls were rewarded with fresh positions. The letter was leaked to the media, forcing her to resign in a huff in September 2019.
Though the Sena and the Congress are in alliance in Maharashtra, the Congress does not seem to be upset over its ally picking the actor for the legislative council seat.
Though Matondkar’s name as a Congress candidate was doing the rounds, the actor was reportedly not keen on being fielded by the party owing to her differences with some Mumbai Congress leaders.
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She reportedly agreed to the Sena offer after CM Uddhav Thackeray himself called her up.
In its defence, the Sena said Matondkar quit the Congress last year and was no longer its member. Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant concurred, saying: “Urmila had resigned from the party last year.”
Since quitting the Congress, Matondkar maintained a low profile for nearly a year. She resurfaced last month during the row over various controversial statements made by fellow Bollywood actor, Kangana Ranaut, who even launched a sharp attack on CM Thackeray.
Matondkar criticised Ranaut for her statements, which came as a major relief for Sena at a time when its partners, Congress and NCP, were conspicuously silent.
In response to Ranaut referring to Mumbai as “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”, Matondkar had asked the Queen actor to look towards her home state of Himachal Pradesh, “which was a bastion of drug abuse”.
“The entire country is facing the menace of drugs. Does she know Himachal is the origin of drugs? She should start from her own state,” Matondkar said.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
“Some people want to crib all the time and play the victim card, and if all that fails, they play the woman card.”
Ranaut hit back, calling Matondkar a “soft porn star”, a statement that was widely slammed by other Bollywood actors and the media.
An unfazed Matondkar tweeted: “Thank you the ‘Real People of India’ and a rare breed of unbiased, dignified media for standing by me. It’s your victory over fake IT trolls n propaganda. Deeply touched… humbled.”
Sena insiders say Matondkar’s sagacity and upfront approach in the row appealed to the party, which decided to field her for the council seat.
“She is an actor and has a good social connect. She might have lost the Lok Sabha elections, but had won hearts of many through her political maturity, knowledge of the field and awareness about people’s problems. She recently proved that again,” said Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
Urmila is being considered a prize catch for the Sena since the party feels it lacks women orators who could put forth the party’s line nationally, especially in Hindi and English languages apart from Marathi.
The party’s female faces are Neelam Gorhe, Manisha Kayande, and former Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi. While Gorhe and Kayande are fluent in Marathi, it is Chaturvedi alone who is holding the fort on Hindi and English channels for the Sena.
According to reports, the Sena is looking at adding Matondkar to its list of spokespersons after Raut’s objectionable language against Ranaut boomeranged and the party faced flak for it.
Some believe the Sena might also gain from the fact that Matondkar’s husband is a Kashmiri Muslim. The Sena, once a staunch BJP ally, is trying to woo the Muslims after it joined hands with the Congress.
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