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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Lok Sabh elections 2019: Legacy, hard work have helped Priya Dutt in Congress

Congress’s Priya Dutt Priya was elected from Mumbai North Central constituency in a by-election and she retained her seat in 2009. During her tenure, she was often in touch with the citizens’ groups in the constituency even though her opponents accused her of being inaccessible.

people Updated: Apr 05, 2019 15:43 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
HIndustan Times, Mumbai
Congress’s Priya Dutt Priya was elected from Mumbai North Central constituency in a by-election and she retained her seat in 2009.
Congress’s Priya Dutt Priya was elected from Mumbai North Central constituency in a by-election and she retained her seat in 2009.(File photo)
         

In January this year, former lawmaker Priya Dutt declared that she was not going to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. Her announcement rattled several sections of the Congress’ Mumbai unit and she was flooded with requests to reconsider her decision.

The Congress party was finding it difficult to get someone to replace Priya Dutt, who could reclaim its stronghold of Mumbai North Central constituency that had been snatched by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014.

Priya Dutt had inherited the legacy of Sunil Dutt, a respected leader of the party in Mumbai and Bollywood actor. In 2005 after his death, the mantle fell on his youngest daughter Priya to take forward his legacy. Priya was no novice to public life as she was the trustee of Nargis Dutt Foundation, which works with the poor in the fields of health and education among others.

(Read: Profile of Congress leader Milind Deora)

Priya was elected from the constituency in a by-election and she retained her seat in 2009. During her tenure, she was often in touch with the citizens’ groups in the constituency even though her opponents accused her of being inaccessible.

However, the Modi wave and infighting within the city Congress unit cost her the election in 2014.

Hurt more with the “betrayal” of party leaders, who allegedly did not work for her during the elections, Priya had vowed not to return to the fray. Finally, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had to intervene and ask her to contest and she relented.

Two things work in her favour—one the Dutt surname as Sunil Dutt is still revered in this constituency and second, she does not belong to any camp and is friendly with all groups within the Congress.

The North Central constituency is a mixed bag as the plush Bandra as well as slum dominated Chandivali comes under it.

(Read: Profile of BJP leader Kiren Rijiju)

“The best thing about Priya Dutt is she can mix with both the slum dwellers as well as elite people with equal ease,” said Congress leader Shivji Singh.

Her political life has not been without problems as her brother and Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) and his plans to contest the 2009 Lok Sabha polls created a rift in her family which had been loyal to the Congress party. Reports suggested that some Congress leaders were deliberately pushing Sanjay to counter Priya.

Priya has now started low-key campaigning, addressing small groups of people and is all set to fight the current MP Poonam Mahajan in the Lok Sabha election.