Samajwadi Party Member of Parliament Jaya Bachchan on Friday said there was no need for her actor-husband Amitabh Bachchan to apologise for his presence at the inauguration of the last four lanes of the Bandra-Worli sea-link in Mumbai, where he was invited. The issue has triggered a controversy with a section of the Congress objecting to the invitation extended to Mr. Bachchan by the Nationalist Congress Party.
Asked about the reported demand from some Congressmen for Mr. Bachchan's apology she asked: “Who's to apologise? India belongs to all of us. It is not as if States belong to the parties ruling them. He was invited. If somebody invites you, you should go. There is nothing to apologise.”
On Mr. Bachchan sharing the dais with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Ms. Bachchan said, “When I hear things like this, I feel as if India is divided and each party owns the State it rules. In a democracy everybody should be free to stand with who they like. Ideology should not come in the way.”
In her hour-long interaction with the Indian Women's Press Corps, the actress-turned-politician candidly fielded a variety of questions including those about her son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya, but sent out a clear signal to the jam-packed hall that she was there primarily to talk about herself and her views, not to give clarifications on her husband. “I am not here to answer for him. Amitabh Bachchan is capable of defending himself. Our family is used to it. It is part of life,” she said.
The MP who is retiring from the Rajya Sabha in July said she enjoyed her stint in Parliament but for the hiccup when she was disqualified under the Office of Profit Act. So far she had not been offered any position in the party nor was she tipped to make a come-back to the House of elders on an SP ticket. She had not made any plans for the future. Electoral politics was out of question as she did not have the temperament for it.
Asked if she would join the Congress party if Sonia Gandhi were to make an offer, she categorically said “no” but went on to chide the reporter who asked the question for referring to Ms. Gandhi as ‘Sonia.' “You should show respect for her. She is older than you and she is the president of a party.”
At the same time, she declined to answer a question on the estrangement between the Gandhis and the Bachchans saying it was “too personal.”
On the Women's Reservation Bill, Ms. Bachchan said she felt the same as most women do. She did not agree that women were divided on the issue. On Mulayam Singh's comment about such women benefitting from the Bill who'd attract cat-calls, she again said that she felt as most women did on the comment, but added that the socialist leader wanted to trigger a debate which is what was happening as she was being asked about it.
She was not witness to the unseemly scenes in the Rajya Sabha when the Women's Bill was tabled, as she was out of the country, but she said: “I have never liked people going into the well of the House.”
For her, the most difficult moments in her political career have been those when the party wanted her to follow one line while she felt otherwise. “I'd be lying if I agreed and it would amount to indiscipline if I said I didn't. That's tough, because for me, I have to believe in what I am saying.”