Unmindful of objections from his family members, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt on Friday night announced he would contest the next parliamentary elections on a Samajwadi Party ticket. He also said there was no dispute in his family over the issue.
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, the actor said he was the eldest member of the Dutt family and so there was no need to discuss his political plans with anybody.
If there were legal hurdles to his plans, then the next step would be decided accordingly, he said in the presence of Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh.
Dutt was addressing a hurriedly convened press conference at his residence to clarify the situation in the wake of an outburst by his younger sister, Mumbai North-West MP Priya Dutt, objecting to his candidature as a Samajwadi Party candidate.
However, Dutt said that if required, he would readily campaign for her in Mumbai. "There is no dispute in the family of any kind over this issue," Dutt asserted.
Asked why she had criticised his decision to enter politics, Dutt magnanimously said: "If she has said so, I forgive her. We children always used to commit mistakes and my father (the late) Sunil Dutt always used to forgive us."
To a query that Priya had questioned his wife's credentials as the family's daughter-in-law, Sanjay emphatically said that Manyata is his wife, "she is the only Mrs. Dutt" and she is the daughter-in-law of his parents, the late Sunil and Nargis Dutt.
Dutt also said that the courts had removed charges against him under the Terrorist & Disruptive Activities (TADA) Act and he had only been charged under the Arms Act - "Whenever you write anything about me, please keep this in mind," Dutt appealed to the media.
Amar Singh called for unity of all secular forces and said that the Congress and the Samajwadi Party were together in this mission. He said he held Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her family members and the Congress party in highest esteem.
Last week, the Samajwadi Party's move to offer Sanjay Dutt the party ticket from the prestigious Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency ignited a political and family controversy.
The Mumbai unit of the Congress has softened its aggressive approach over Dutt's plans to join politics. City party chief Kripa Shankar Singh on Friday morning expressed his party's preparedness to offer Dutt a nomination if he was willing to fight as a Congress candidate.
On its part, the Samajwadi Party was also toying with the idea of pitting its Maharashtra unit chief, Abu Asim Azmi, against Priya Dutt.
Considered a strategic move, Azmi's candidature could effectively eat into the substantial north-Indian and Muslim electorate that makes up the constituency, prevent Dutt from campaigning for his sister and also prevent his family members from building pressure on him to quit the Samajwadi Party.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Friday said Sanjay Dutt should not have been booked under a tough terror law and "he is not a terrorist."
Dutt was convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) for possessing an AK 47 rifle after the 1993 Mumbai blasts. His appeal against his conviction is pending in the Supreme Court.
Digvijay Singh told reporters: "My personal view is that Sanjay should not have been tried under the TADA. He is not a terrorist."
He said Sanjay's decision to join politics and the Samajwadi Party was his own and the Congress would not react to it.
"However, as far as Priya Dutt's statement that she should have got a Congress ticket for him is concerned, I would say that it should have been at Sanjay's initiation and interest if he wanted to join us," he said.
Priya had expressed her disappointment over the actor joining the Samajwadi Party since their family is loyal to the Congress. She had added, however, that it was the actor's personal decision and there was no family feud over it.
When asked about this, Singh said: "It is their personal matter. But for us, the Dutt family is very respectable and Sunil Dutt (Sanjay's father) was not only a Congress leader but also a very respected social worker".
However, Sanjay Dutt, who is expected to reach Lucknow next week to begin his campaign for the Lok Sabha elections as a Samajwadi Party candidate, will be greeted by hoardings that rake up his past and the criminal case against him.
Put up at over a dozen prominent places by a group that calls itself the Anti Terrorist Forum of Lucknow (ATFL), the hoardings read "Lucknow is our heaven, we do not want AK forty seven".
The hoardings also carry a big picture of the AK-47 rifle, mentioning that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai used it.
Dutt was convicted for illegal possession of an AK-47 rifle after the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. His appeal against the verdict is pending in the Supreme Court.
Last week, Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh had announced that Dutt would be the party's candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow and if the star was not allowed to contest the polls because of the ongoing criminal case against him, his wife Manyata would become the candidate.
"We are strictly against any candidate from any party who has a criminal background and our protest is not only against Sanjay Dutt," said one of the founder members of ATFL, not willing to be named.
The member, a postgraduate student of Lucknow University, denied that his group had any association with any political party.
However, the Samajwadi Party strongly feels the hoardings have been put up at the behest of the state's ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
"All the hoardings have been put up at prime locations, which earlier used to flaunt the chief minister's hoardings. This has been done to malign the image of our candidate. No one in the city could dare to put a hoarding in place of that of the chief minister if he didn't have permission from the ruling party," Shivpal Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party's acting state president, told IANS.
No one from the BSP was available for comment on the issue.
Dutt is not the first Bollywood personality to attempt a foray into politics from here. Muzaffar Ali twice contested from Lucknow on the Samajwadi Party ticket but he never won. Raj Babbar also tried his luck once from Lucknow but in vain. He later won the Agra seat on the Samajwadi Party ticket before quitting the party.
However, political analysts see a bright chance for Dutt if he contests.
"Sanjay has a good chance in Lucknow. With the Samajwadi Party naming him as its candidate, Lucknow will witness a star contesting the election for the fourth time," said Ramesh Dixit, who teaches political science at Lucknow University.
"On earlier occasions, no film star was successful in winning from this constituency. However, Sanjay has a very good chance of winning because he has some links with the city. After the partition of the country, his father Sunil Dutt came here with his family and lived in old Lucknow for a few years," added Dixit.
Contrary to what the political analysts say, prominent astrologers and tarot card readers have warned that politics does not bode well as a career for the Bollywood actor.
"His Jupiter is not strong and I do not see him getting into power and if he, by any chance, manages to win, it will bring him a bad reputation. Otherwise things are very good for him. He is an entertainer and should stick to only that," astrologer Ajay Bhambi told IANS.
"He is a blue-eyed boy of the industry because in spite of doing so many wrong things in life, he is still loved by everyone. He is the hero of the common man as he has come out victorious from the hardships that he has faced all through his life.
"But dabbling in politics will do no good to his image," Bhambi said.
The astrologer was referring to Dutt's chequered personal life which has seen him battle drug addiction and being convicted for arms possession in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
Tarot card reader Poonam Sethi says that she does not see Dutt being directly involved in politics. "My cards say he will not get involved in politics directly, his wife might take the plunge but I do not see him getting active in politics," Sethi said.
"In case he manages to get into it, it will not last for a long time; it will just be an unsuccessful stint in politics," she added.
Seema Midha, another tarot card expert and numerologist, agreed and said Dutt's political career did not seem bright. In fact his wife Manyata seems to have brighter chances than him, she said.
"He is doing so many things right now and it will be very difficult for him to balance everything; hence his political career looks very doubtful and I do not think his move in politics is a good one," Midha told IANS.
However, she added, while this year would be "a bit difficult for him, this move could reap him benefits in the coming year," she added.
Astrologer Bejan Daruwalla refused to comment on his chances in politics but said his career would pick up from April.
"He is a Leo and is full of talent and energy. As an actor he has proved his mettle. All I can see and make out from his horoscope is that from the month of April, his career will pick up and he will be a happy man," Daruwalla told IANS over phone from Mumbai.
"Politics is a part of life. As I have said he will be a happy and successful man, and that means in all his future endeavours, he will get success."
Indo-Asian News Service
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