The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Take Suniel, give Sunjay
Sanjay (top) and Suniel

Mumbai, April 20: Sunjay and Suniel are friends — more than friends, really. Sunjay Dutt has a joint bank account with Suniel Shetty’s wife Mana.

When the two actors are seen on either side of the poll divide — Suniel campaigning for Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Nirupam against Sunjay’s father — the obvious conclusion would be: “Cluck, cluck, politics has destroyed another friendship.”

But think again.

Two days ago, an emotional Sunjay dropped in on a meeting being addressed by his father Sunil Dutt, the Congress candidate for Mumbai Northwest, in Andheri. In “Munnabhai” style, he told the gathering to thunderous applause, “Votes bole toh inko dena. Yeh kaun keh raha hai' Munnabhai keh raha hai (Vote for him. Who’s saying this' Munnabhai).”

The hero of Munnabhai MBBS, the hugely popular movie, was mobbed.

The Sena was not amused. Only days ago, it had announced Sunjay would not campaign for the Congress — that he had given his word to Bal Thackeray.

Nirupam, who went weak in his knees after Sunjay’s guest appearance, said the actor had stabbed him in the back. Sena sources said other leaders, too, were “upset with Sunjay’s behaviour”. “After what Balasaheb did for him during the riots (of 1993) he should have shown some courtesy towards the party that helped him in his time of need,” a senior party leader said. Arrested for possessing an AK-47, Sunjay was treated with kid gloves at Thackeray’s instance.

Sunil Dutt screamed that his son had nothing to do with terrorists , but the Congress did not listen. The case is still on in a Mumbai court.

Stung Sena leaders today announced triumphantly Suniel Shetty would campaign for Nirupam. What better revenge for Sunjay’s so-called “betrayal”'

Not quite, said a friend of Suniel, who insisted that it was only an attempt to save Sunjay further trouble by assuaging the Sena. “He just wants to balance things out. The message is that if Sunjay is campaigning for his father and the Congress, Suniel will do so for Nirupam and the Sena. Panga nahi hoga (There will be no clash between the two).”

Sunjay has also tried to clear the air by saying that his appeal to voters to back his father should not be seen politically. “I just went to meet my dad whom I haven’t seen for the last two months,” he said. “I was missing him and I wanted to see his face. What I said was not planned. But I don’t see what is wrong in speaking for my own flesh and blood. There really should be no issue about it.”

Wouldn’t Thackeray be angry with him campaigning for the Congress' “Balasaheb is above all this. Moreover, my family and I can never forget what he has done for us,” Sunjay replied.

Sunjay and Suniel are so thick they are like brothers, say industry sources. Suniel is very protective of his friend, that’s why the joint account. Sunjay cannot withdraw more than Rs 5,000 at one go from the account because, according to Suniel, “Sunjay is so innocent and gullible that everyone fleeces him and he doesn’t even know what is happening.”

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