Mumbai: Urmila Matondkar, leading Bollywood actor of the 90s who joined the Congress recently, says she has faced a lot of trolling on social media and personal attacks after her entry into politics, but asserted that she is here to stay.
Matondkar, who is contesting from the Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituency -- a BJP stronghold, said these elections will decide the direction in which the country will go and if democracy will be saved.
"I have never left anything incomplete... be it studies or career. The decision to join politics was well thought of and I will give more than 100 per cent to it. My intentions are clear," Matondkar, who is pitted against the BJP's sitting MP Gopal Shetty, told PTI.
"Women should understand they need to have nerves of steel to be in politics. I understand criticism, but have had to face negativity, dirt and filth. I have not played the victim card in all these days. I am here to stay," she said.
Referring to a recent incident in suburban Borivali, when a scuffle broke out between Congress and BJP workers during her rally, she said she believes in freedom of expression and has nothing against people chanting anybody's name.
"But the way the scene unfolded later was unacceptable and appalling. This is politics of hatred and negativity. Violence is not always physical but also at a mental level... After joining politics I have faced tremendous trolling (on social media) and personal attacks," she said.
The actor-turned-politician will make her electoral debut with the April 29 polling in Mumbai North.
Matondkar said when she returned to Mumbai after formally joining the Congress in Delhi, she was surprised to find a hostile media.
"I was taken aback by the kind of questions asked. Having a huge career of 27 years and making a name for myself as a film star, I never faced such negativity," the "Rangeela" actor said.
She asserted that her decision to join a party which is out of power showed her integrity.
Matondkar said she has chosen a political role to fight against hatred and negativity.
"Today, the society is driven by fear. The film industry is very vulnerable. After a huge career and making a name, when people voice opinions about their children's well-being, they are asked to go to another country. I fail to understand when we stooped so low," she said.
"This Lok Sabha poll is not just an election but will decide in which direction the country is going and will the democracy be saved," she added.
Asked about the film industry's support for her poll campaign, Matondkar said, "Some of my colleagues messaged me and congratulated me."
She said her focus is on her constituency's development and housing, water and electricity for the poor are the major issues.
Matondkar said she had no intentions to contest the polls but was convinced by the Congress to jump into the fray after she joined the party.
She said her "empathy" for the people of her constituency helped her connect with them and claimed that voters open up to her over the prevailing issues and what they expect from their representative.
"I have been a phenomenally good student and always aware of the socio-political, economic scenario, and the history and culture of our country. The connectivity comes out of deep respect for people in front of me," the Congress candidate added.
On the Congress's minimum income guarantee scheme, 'Nyay', Matondkar said it is not just about giving money to the poor, but mobilising the economy.
"It is not impossible since a lot of thought has gone into it. It is deliverable and practical," she said.
Under the scheme, the Congress has promised to give Rs 72,000 per year as minimum income to the poorest 20 per cent families of the country if it is voted to power in the Lok Sabha polls.
Taking on her opponent, Shetty, Matondkar said, "I am going to them (voters), asking them to make me their representative. Gopal Shetty says he has lived in the slums for 55 years. I haven't. They tried to project as if I have come from Mars."
Shetty had defeated Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam in the 2014 Lok Sabha election