For now, actor Sanjay Dutt has saved the Congress from an awkward situation by deciding not to ask for pardon from the Centre or the state government. But the family is likely to explore options in the future when the socio-political situation allows the party to back such a move.
The Congress-led state government has been in a dilemma over the past week because several key personalities, including some senior Congress leaders and those from its allies, had sought pardon for Dutt after he was handed a five-year term sentence by the Supreme Court for acquiring guns illegally.
But a section within the Congress feared that the move could create anti-Congress sentiments. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had planned to rake up the issue against Dutt’s MP sister Priya in the next year’s Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai. Officials in Raj Bhavan and the law and judiciary department had also told the government that pardoning Dutt wasn’t an easy task.
What deterred the Dutt family and their advisors was the political fallout. A senior Congress leader, who is privy to the matter, said: “The Dutt family decided against the suggestion that the actor should personally apply for pardon to avoid any further loss of popularity, when options would be available in future.”
The leader said the actor will first appeal to the Supreme Court to review the sentence, and will start serving the jail term if denied relief. “Dutt or others may apply on his behalf for pardon after spending a year or so in jail. This would be more acceptable to the authorities and the political leadership,” he said.
Many in the Congress feel the Shiv Sena and the BJP could be convinced at a later stage. The two parties had supported Dutt in the past following his late father Sunil Dutt’s appeal.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the party would not comment any further. “Our national spokesperson Rashid Alvi has made it clear that the party respects the court verdict.”