Sanjay Dutt: Pawn-who-would-be-Queen
by Sandhya Jain on 03 Apr 2009 7 Comments

Cine star Sanjay Dutt, convicted in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai and now general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, crossed the limits of normal and political decency by insinuating that Law Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj was responsible for the Supreme Court decision to deny him permission to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

So grave are the implications of his virtual challenge to the ruling dispensation and judicial independence, that Chief Justice of India, Mr. KG Balakrishnan, had to take the utterly unprecedented step of formally and personally denying the allegations.

While it is debatable if the Chief Justice of India should himself have issued the denial, the fact that the Supreme Court as an institution felt pained and compelled to do so, has taken us to a new low in public life. Possibly the Honourable Court felt that the Law Minister’s admission that he received Sanjay Dutt at his residence on 30 March after Dutt alleged that he had a ‘sting’ CD, cast a shadow over judicial probity and independence. Whichever way one looks at it – a convict on bail has thrown mud at one of the high institutions of the land, and he has dared to do so only because he is politically well-connected and well-heeled.

Even more reprehensible is his allegation that the Congress Party was morally responsible for the death of his father, cine actor Sunil Dutt, because it inducted Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Nirupam into the party for reasons of political expediency.

Surely if Sunil Dutt could survive his son doing drugs, getting involved with undesirables from the underworld, and having an admitted association with the planners and executors of the heinous Mumbai 1993 blasts, and still fight a sustained legal battle for his freedom – then the political mobility of one Sanjay Nirupam should not disturb his sleep. Unless, of course, the advent of Nirupam threatened his own political career. 

In that case, it is possible that Sunil Dutt did tell Sanjay he was “hurt” by the induction of Nirupam. But did he never tell Sanjay how disturbed and hurt he was by the way Sanjay had turned out, the disgrace and dishonour he had brought to the carefully nourished image of a perfect and cultured family? It’s a bit rich that Sanjay should take potshots at sister, Priya Dutt, MP, for being a member of the party “which killed her father.”

The fact is Sanjay himself would have been more than contented if Ms. Sonia Gandhi had selected him for the Congress ticket in the first place. Moreover, not so long ago, Sanjay was happy to use his Congress connections to get a book on his late parents released at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He again demonstrated a keen desire to get a party ticket. It was the Congress inability to oblige two members of the same family in the same state, and that too, a convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, that forced the aging actor to seek other pastures.

In a television interview on 1 April, Dutt tried to invoke public sympathy saying, “I have been prosecuted for last 18 years. If you look at the track record, when I went to jail Congress was in power, when I got bail Congress was not in power and when I was re-arrested Congress was in power.” He openly stated that if the party had “valued” his late father, they “could have loved me a little bit.”

This is simply amazing. For most of the 18 years that the case progressed, Sanjay Dutt was out on bail, transforming a mediocre career into a highly successful one, and even getting married twice (once to Rhea Pillai, and now to one Manyata). And even after being convicted for possession of illegal AK-47s procured from outright criminals, and sentenced to six years in jail, the middle-aged star is merrily out on bail, pursuing appeals that will go up to the Supreme Court, while his film and political career continue to prosper. Not a bad bargain at all – here is a man who has harvested innumerable crops because the judicial mills grind so slowly.

Yet Sanjay, ably assisted by the ubiquitous Dr. Amar Singh, has had no compunctions in endorsing the latter’s allegation that the CBI opposed his plea for suspension of conviction at the behest of the UPA. Was CBI supposed to undo all its good work in the Mumbai blasts and say it made a mistake, Dutt was a good boy, and should be allowed to contest? Grow up man, you’ve already grown old.

Speaking to the press, Dr. Amar Singh alleged that the Centre had used the CBI to hound SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Somehow, Dr. Singh is always close to those with family grievances, soothing the bruised ego, helping articulate the hurt...

He was there on television with Dutt, when the latter made the startling allegation that he had done a ‘sting’ operation on a Central minister who had threatened him with legal consequences if he did not join the Congress party. That drove HR Bhardwaj into the open, denying any threat or allegation, and demanding that Dutt make his so-called tapes public; Dutt hasn’t taken the bait so far.

The Samajwadi Party is now looking for a candidate for Lucknow constituency, and by all accounts Dr. Amar Singh is keen on Manyata, an unknown Muslim from Hyderabad. Dutt will be the Star Campaigner, and his role will no doubt be to rally the Muslim vote for the SP, away from both Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Given the gravity of his allegations that the Supreme Court was being virtually run from the residence of the Union Law Minister, it is worth mentioning that the Supreme Court Bench comprising Mr. Justices P Sathasivam and RM Lodha, had pointed out that while Dutt was convicted for a “serious offence” pertaining to holding illicit arms connected with the Mumbai 1993 blasts, BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu’s case pertained to road rage and fell in an entirely different category. Mr. Sidhu’s conviction was stayed by the apex court to enable him to contest the Amritsar by-elections in 2007.

Dutt has been specifically disqualified from contesting elections under Section 8 (3) of the Representation of People Act. This debars a person sentenced to two or more years of imprisonment from standing for elections. There is simply no mitigating factor to permit him the sought relief. By hitting out blindly on all sides, with the vacuous intensity of a checkmated pawn-who-would-be-queen, he has only drawn attention to the Samajwadi Party’s sharp reinvention from being the party of middle farmers, rooted to the soil, to one fronting for radical minorities while thirsting for the arc lights. It is a recipe for disaster.

The author is Editor,

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