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Lage raho? Not in politics

Mumbai, March 21: Sanjay Dutt’s surprise foray into politics proved short-lived in comparison with those of his father and sister, thanks partly to a Supreme Court verdict four years ago that scuttled his electoral plans.

The actor’s choice of the Samajwadi Party had sharpened differences within the family, made up of Congress loyalists, and he eventually regretted his “mistake”.

Sanjay had shown no early interest in politics at a time sister Priya would accompany their father Sunil, a five-time Congress MP and Union minister, to his political campaigns. When Sunil passed away in 2005, Priya replaced him as Lok Sabha member from Mumbai North-West.

Politics suddenly arrived at Sanjay’s doorstep one day in May 2008, when Samajwadi leader Amar Singh paid a “courtesy call” to meet the actor and his new bride Maanyata at their home.

Priya revealed six months later that her brother planned to contest on a Samajwadi ticket. She appeared to suggest that Maanyata was behind Sanjay’s decision.

With Amar by his side, Sanjay publicly declared in January 2009 that he would indeed contest on a Samajwadi ticket and that too from Lucknow, where Sunil had arrived after Partition and worked with All India Radio.

However, Sanjay admitted there were legal hurdles and that he could contest the polls only if the Supreme Court suspended his conviction and the six-year sentence awarded by the trial court that heard the 1993 blasts case.

A three-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, however, decided against his plea. So, instead of contesting, Sanjay toured Uttar Pradesh as party general secretary, canvassing votes for Samajwadi candidates.

He eventually withdrew from politics in 2010 after his mentor Amar fell out with Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Sanjay’s venture into politics had deepened his differences with sisters Priya and Namrata, who were uncomfortable with Maanyata and had distanced themselves from the couple’s sudden marriage. Priya publicly expressed her “disappointment” at her brother choosing the Samajwadis over the Congress.

“Definitely there is disappointment. We have always been a Congress family…. My personal commitment is to the Congress, while his commitment can be somewhere else. Sanjay has to take responsibility for his decision,” she said.

In a recent interview, Sanjay, who quit alcohol and launched a kickboxing league last year, said he regretted the decision.

“My entire family has been with the Congress right from the time of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Congress is in our blood and, as a loyalist, I am always there for the Congress…. Samajwadi was a mistake and I regret it,” he said.