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Sanjay embrace chokes govt

Mumbai, Aug. 28: The Maharashtra government is struggling to wriggle out of the Sanjay Dutt bear hug.

After suspending a policeman who allowed himself to be hugged by Sanjay on his way out of Yerwada Jail, a sheepish administration has realised that at least one minister in the Congress-led government was the object of similar affection by the actor.

Baba Siddiqui, the minister of state for food and civil supplies, owes his political career to Sanjay’s father, the late Sunil Dutt, and makes it a point to be with the actor at his hour of crisis.

The grateful Siddiqui’s proximity with Sanjay would not have raised any eyebrows but for the alacrity with which officials cracked down on the policemen who were overwhelmed by the presence of Munnabhai amid them.

One has been suspended and seven others are facing departmental action.

With the Shiv Sena-BJP combine demanding using the same yardstick against Siddiqui, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had made some sympathetic comments about the suspended policeman, which was construed as revocation of the punishment.

The chief minister’s secretary, however, said Deshmukh had not revoked the order. “Deshmukh expressed surprise over the speedy manner in which the constable’s suspension was ordered,” another official said.

The chief minister, too, clarified tonight that neither he nor his deputy R.R. Patil had given the suspension order. “The order came from IG prisons,” Deshmukh said in Aurangabad.

Deshmukh added that the emotional state of the constable during the handshake should be taken into account.

Asked if the policeman remained suspended, inspector-general of prisons, Satish Mathur, also said: “If the CM has denied reversing the order, it means the suspension has not been revoked.”

On Siddiqui, Deshmukh said the minister has committed no crime. “Dutt is like a family member for him. You must understand that police is a disciplined force. The norms applicable to them may differ from those applicable to civilians.”

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