Nidhi Razdan in conversation with Khushbu Sundar Video Credit: Gulf News

“Yes, that tweet was not right, I would say that you get carried away being in opposition and I shouldn’t have used the kind of words I have”, BJP leader and actor turned politician Khushbu Sundar told Gulf News in an interview, referring to an old tweet of her’s from 2018 where she linked the Modi surname with corruption.

The Congress has made her tweet viral after Rahul Gandhi’s recent conviction for defamation by a Surat court over similar comments. But Khushbu has refused to delete it. “Then I was in an opposition party, this was the language of my leader”, she tells us.“We were told that this is how we need to attack”.

The combative style is very much in line with Khushbu’s personality. She hasn’t ever shied away from going on the offensive and even from taking a position which maybe at odds with her political party. Women politicians, she says, end up being more harshly judged.

“A woman is always scrutinised, she comes under a magnifying glass.. we are told how to behave, walk, talk, sit, smile, cry, laugh…the opposition has a field day, the only thing they do is character assassination”, she says.

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Strong, independent woman

It has been quite a journey for the 52 year old Khushbu. She was born as Nakhat Khan in Mumbai and began a career in films as a child.

The actor, who started her career with the Bollywood film The Burning Train, became a popular face in the South Indian film industry, particularly Tamil cinema where fans even built a temple for her. Interestingly, many of her film roles were of strong, independent women.

It is rare for Indian public figures to open up about their personal struggles. Khushbu recently broke her silence on the sexual abuse she allegedly faced at the hands of her father a child, it made national headlines. Khushbu says she faced the abuse from the age of 8 till she was 15 and suffered in silence her whole life.

“I should have spoken about it then and there itself, but probably I didn’t have the kind of laws we have now, the kind of support we have now, I didn’t have this kind of an understanding world that we have now where we are open to speak about abuse”, she told Gulf News.

Khusbu is fluent in Tamil, Telugu, English, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi

Advocate for women’s rights

Khushbu has been a strong advocate for women’s rights and has just been appointed as a member for the National Commission for Women. She was one of the very few women leaders in the BJP who openly spoke out against the release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists in Gujarat.

“I think i need to stand up as a woman, because if I fail as a woman, then I fail as a human. I am the mother of two girls and my prime focus would be how my children react to me and tomorrow if my children stop respecting me then there won’t be any other bigger failure than that”, Khushbu says as she talks about her views on Bilkis.

Last year, on my NDTV show, Khushbu also trashed the concept of “love jihad” which BJP leaders are propagating in many states. As we discussed the infamous Shraddha murder case, she told me, “I am a muslim woman married to a Hindu man and was in a live in relationship 5 years before the marriage. I don’t see love jihad anywhere”.

In 2010, she took the plunge into politics, joining the DMK which welcomed her “progressive views”. But in 2014 she switched to the Congress and became one of the party’s star campaigners and key faces on TV debates. She would take on the BJP with a fierce determination. However, in 2020 she jumped to the BJP.

Even though she’s an active politician now, Khushbu has not stopped acting but finds politics tougher. “Politics is a very different game altogether," she says.

“Politics is not a character you are performing, your real self does come out and you can’t hide it from people”. Whichever party she may have belonged to, Khushbu has been consistent in speaking her mind and standing up for women’s rights.