Sibling tensions spilled into the political arena as Congress MP Priya Dutt on Wednesday voiced disappointment that her film star brother Sanjay Dutt had chosen to be a Samajwadi Party candidate, sparking a war of words between the two parties. Priya to HT
While Priya Dutt also took pains to say in Mumbai that she would always support her brother's professional or personal decisions, Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh was quick to score a political point.
"Priya should not be disappointed and should know that it is because of our support that the Congress government is surviving at the Centre," Amar Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
Sanjay and Priya Dutt are the children of late actor and Congress veteran Sunil Dutt, who was India's sports minister when he died. Their mother and actress Nargis was an MP in the Rajya Sabha.
While the actor was away in Srinagar shooting for a movie, Priya Dutt told reporters: "There is disappointment that Sanjay has joined the Samajwadi Party. But If he wants to serve people through politics, it's fantastic.
"Neither Sanjay nor (his wife) Manyata have confirmed that he is contesting the election. Just like their marriage, I came to know about it through the media.
"We haven't had any discussion on this in the family but there is no family feud. If the need arises, we as a family will support Sanjay," she said.
Last week, Amar Singh announced that Sanjay Dutt would be the Samajwadi Party candidate for the Lok Sabha Lucknow seat. If he was not allowed to contest because of a criminal case against him, Manyata would be the candidate, Amar Singh added.
Sanjay Dutt was convicted for illegal possession of an AK-47 rifle. His appeal against the verdict is pending in the Supreme Court.
Priya Dutt said that to claim that the Congress had been unjust to Sanjay and forced him to opt for the Samajwadi Party was incorrect.
"We have always been loyal to the Congress party, we have been a Congress family. If needed our party could have tried to give Sanjay an opportunity to contest elections at an appropriate time," said Priya, the Congress MP from Mumbai north-west.
"It is his choice whether to contest elections or not and from which party. We are individuals in our family, we take our own decisions individually and take responsibility for it. I am not the kind of person who will wash dirty linen in public," she added.
Just a day after the Samajwadi Party indicated its plans to pit its state party chief Abu Asim Azmi from Mumbai North-West constituency, Priya Dutt was Wednesday quoted as saying that her brother had been "manipulated" into contesting on Samajwadi Party ticket by his wife Manyata.
Sanjay Dutt has said that he will speak on the controversy when he returns to Mumbai. "I don't want to comment on anything. I will talk once I am back in Mumbai."
In New Delhi, Congress MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi fired a salvo at Amar Singh, asking the Samajwadi Party leader to go for a "physical and mental check-up".
"I have said what I wanted to say," Chaturvedi told IANS later. "All I can say is Amar Singh should go for a mental check-up."
Although Chaturvedi's remarks were not linked to the Priya Dutt-Amar Singh barbs, they are expected to further ignite tensions between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, which are bickering over an electoral tie-up in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
In a related development, Sanjay Dutt Wednesday got the Supreme Court's permission to go to New York as the United Nation's "goodwill ambassador" to attend a conference on malnutrition next month.
A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan gave him the permission and ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to release his passport.
The bench also ordered Dutt to return his passport to the CBI after returning from abroad latest by Feb 20. The actor is to travel to Britain, Thailand and South Africa to complete the shooting of two films.