Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh ensured that actress-turned-social activist Nafisa Ali left the Congress and joined his party to contest from the Lucknow constituency, according to informed sources.The question comes up after Nafisa Ali's 'secret' visit to this Uttar pradesh capital 10 days ago, when she approached Maulana Khalid Rasheed, Lucknow's naib imam and head of the 300-year-old seminary Darul-Uloom Firangi Mahal, Idgah, and another leading maulana of the city.
Nafisa Ali was here on March 28 to assess whether she would get the blessings of Lucknow's leading clerics, whose support could swing a large chunk of the city's Muslim community. She was accompanied by a prominent Congress leader, who enjoys close proximity to the two maulanas.The maulanas were told that the Congress was considering Nafisa Ali's candidature, if the Samajwadi Party nominee, actor Sanjay Dutt, does not get the Supreme Court's clearance to contest the Lok Sabha election due to his conviction in a criminal case.On March 31, state Congress in-charge Digvijay Singh and state party president Rita Bahuguna Joshi too called on Maulana Khalid Rasheed for seeking the maulana's support.
Sure enough, there was no talk of her being even remotely associated with the Samajwadi Party, whose general secretary Amar Singh seems to have hijacked her, in the same way as Sanjay Dutt was snatched away from the Congress about a month ago, according to informed sources.
While the Congress high command was dilly-dallying, Nafisa Ali was flown in here along with Sanjay Dutt on Sunday afternoon.They drove down straight from the airport to the state Samajwadi Party headquarters, where Amar Singh asked Sanjay Dutt to formally announce Nafisa Ali's official candidature from here.The idea was to put spotlight on Sanjay Dutt, who was last week named the party's national general secretary after the denial of permission from the Supreme Court.
Amar Singh, in his press conference in Lucknow, singled out the Congress leadership for allegedly being indifferent towards Nafisa Ali whose active role as a staunch Congress supporter had also got her a cabinet minister's rank when she was appointed chairperson of the National Children's Film Society.On her part, Nafisa Ali, a former beauty queen, gave a long speech on how she was attracted to the "true secular credentials" of the Samajwadi Party.
However, she was at her wit's end when asked if the Congress was "less secular" than the Samajwadi Party. "I do not mean that. I have always had full faith in (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi's secular credentials, but I got suspicious about some people in the party," she said after Amar Singh whispered something to her.
Sanjay Dutt added: "It was my wife Manyata who suggested the name of Nafisa Ali, and I am grateful to the Samajwadi Party leadership for accepting our proposal to field her. Nafisa is like a sister to me and I wish to assure her that I will remain behind her like a shadow in the entire election campaign."
Nafisa Ali pointed out: "I have known Sanjay for 30 years and felt really pained that while someone like Jagdish Tytler could get a clean chit (in a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case), Sanjay Dutt could not even get permission to contest the polls."