"Dua kijiyega, supreme court ka faisla mere haq mein ho," urged actor Sanjay Dutt, the supposed candidate from Samajwadi Party (SP) for the high-profile Lucknow parliamentary seat. He said this at Lucknow's Aishbagh Eidgah on March 16 during a 45-minute long informal meet with several Sunni clerics.
Accompanied by Rajya Sabha member from SP, Virendra Bhatia, Dutt claimed that there was no official or political agenda of the meeting. However, the actor was at his best in terms of mannerism and language with the obvious aim of winning over Muslims who form 24. % of the electorate in Lucknow.
Sipping a cup of lemon tea at the Aishbagh Eidgah, Dutt spoke of what his parents taught him of religion. "Ma and Papa always said that one should respect all religions. It is for this reason, that I visit all places of worship to seek blessings," said the actor.
He may be a beginner in politics, but Sanjay Dutt seems to be learning his lessons fast. On his fourth trip to Lucknow, a more politically mature Munna Bhai visited the Samajwadi Party's district headquarters in Kaiserbagh to attend a Holi Milan samaroh and interacted with the party workers from the grass-roots level.
What showcased an interesting mix of his maturity as a politician and skills of a good actor, was the manner in which Sanju Baba managed to avoid a controversies by spontaneously improvising on a slip during his address that caused quite a few heads to turn. Speaking on senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lalji Tandon's remarks that he is an outsider, an emphatic Sanjay Dutt questioned the very basis on which the remark was made.
"Main bahar ka nahin hoon. Hum sab Hindu hain..."(I am not an outsider. We all are Hindus...), said Dutt, sounding like a staunch saffron leader. His statement did create a murmur leaving some of the senior party leaders sharing the dais him visibly uncomfortable. Apparently taking the cue, Dutt hastened to repeat: "...Hum sab Hindustani hain," (We all are Hindustanis) much to the relief of his political mentors around him.
From here on, he spoke like a seasoned neta and when asked to comment on Tandon, who is BJP’s candidate in Lucknow in place of Atal Behari Vajpai, said: "Woh bahut hi varisht neta hain....humare bare hain....hum unka samman karte hain...(He is a very senior politician....he is my elder....I respect him a lot)."
Dutt spent more than a couple of hours interacting with party workers on a one-to-one basis, in between smiling for lensmen and his fans-cum-party workers who sought a chance to stand beside their Bollywood hero for a quick photo session. Addressing the party workers, Sanjay Dutt confidently outlined their role at the grass-root level and went on to declare that a leader owes his existence to party workers.
His speech was greeted with obvious applause when Munna Bhai said that all the party workers were his `Circuits', name of Dutt's famous stooge in the flick Munna Bhai MBBS. "Aap sab humare Circuit hain...agar aap Circuit ki tarah saath denge to hi hum Munna Bhai ban payenge" (All of you are my Circuit. When you all will extend support to me like Circuit then only can I become a Munna Bhai), Sanjay Dutt said.
Though SP has declared Dutt as its candidate from Lucknow, the Bollywood star can contest elections only after he gets the permission from the Supreme Court. He was convicted by the special TADA court in Mumbai for possessing illegal firearms. Dutt has moved the Supreme Court seeking suspension of his sentence in order to allow him contest the polls.
Under the provisions of the People's Representation Act, any individual convicted in a crime that attracts a punishment of three or more years cannot contest any election. Sanjay Dutt stands debarred from contesting polls unless provided relief by the apex court in his case.