NCP chief Sharad Pawar (69) dismisses the media hype over his campaigning for Congress candidate Priya Dutt (43). "Why do you insist on saying that I had any problems with Sunil Dutt? That’s humbug. I had campaigned for him (pre-1991) when I was in the Congress. I have campaigned now for Priya because we are in an alliance and it is my duty to ensure the victory of every candidate."
But there may be more to this campaign story. Pawar described Priya like his daughter but it could be the future of his own daughter Supriya Sule (40) that Pawar was worried about when he decided to campaign for a Dutt.
Dutt and Sule are good friends and sources say the former asked her friend to get her father to campaign and Pawar bowed to his daughter's wishes. Both were unavailable for comment.
The Congress had even sent a formal request to Pawar's office to campaign for Dutt by fax. The Maratha warlord might still not have conceded had it not been for the fact that the future of his alliance with the Congress depends on Dutt's victory. For her rival is in the predominantly Muslim constituency is Bhaijaan Ibrahim Sheikh, the former NCP minority cell chief, on a BSP ticket.
Pawar is concerned about the outcome, particularly since Maharashtra Congress leaders have suggested that should Congress suffer because of NCP's tactics, they could call off the alliance for assembly polls in September this year.
While Pawar did not comment on the larger picture, he told Hindustan Times that he “needed to send out a strong message to people indulging in nonsense” in Dutt’s constituency. “I needed to send out a strong message and put them in their place. They cannot indulge in such nonsense while being with the NCP. So I campaigned for Priya and also told them off.”