New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Sanjay Dutt, one of Bollywood's best-known stars, got a firm foothold in the world of politics Thursday when the Samajwadi Party anointed him general secretary even though he cannot contest elections.
'I am very happy that party leader Mulayam Singhji and other seniors chose me to become the party's national general secretary,' Dutt, 49, who has starred in over 120 films, told reporters at a press conference here.
'Mein dil se kam karoonga aur sach ke liye kam karoonga (I will work with my heart and for the truth),' said the actor-politician who has more often than not courted controversy, be it for his past drug addiction, his conviction for arms possession, or for not joining his late father's party, the Congress.
There had been much speculation about Dutt - popular among the masses as 'Munnabhai' after a film character he portrayed - playing a big role for the party in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Despite being offered a ticket by the Samajwadi Party to contest from Lucknow, he cannot do so after the Supreme Court Tuesday refused to suspend his conviction for possessing illegal arms in the run-up to the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai.
But as party general secretary, he may be well entrenched in politics. Officially, his stature in the party now equals that of another well-known Samajwadi Party face, Amar Singh. There has also been talk that his wife Maanyata may be fielded from Lucknow in his stead.
Well aware that people still see him as the son of late actor and Congress leader Sunil Dutt, Sanjay said the party had ill-treated his father.
'My father was very unhappy when the Congress took in Sanjay Nirupam (the Shiv Sena leader in Mumbai who joined the Congress). They have now given Nirupam a ticket - the same guy who had made such derogatory remarks about Sunil Dutt sahib and the Congress when he was with the Shiv Sena. My father would have been hurt and saddened,' Sanjay Dutt said.
Dutt claimed since his father had a weak heart he was disturbed by these developments and died later, indirectly holding Nirupam responsible for his death.
But in a sharp retort, Nirupam said in Mumbai that if Sunil Dutt's heart was so weak he would have collapsed and died long ago because of his son's behaviour, so it was not correct to blame him (Nirupam).
The Congress candidate from Mumbai North, Nirupam said the late Sunil Dutt was deeply aggrieved by his only son's wayward behaviour and his addiction to drugs.
'It was only because of Sanjay that the legendary Sunil Dutt had to go and sit for hours at the feet of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. I have personally witnessed his agony,' said Nirupam.
Claiming that Sanjay Dutt was merely mouthing the words of 'a particular Samajwadi Party leader', Nirupam said it would be better if the actor steered clear of that leader who was responsible for 'breaking up many families and creating rifts among the best of friends'.
Dutt's rift with his sister Priya Dutt, a Congress MP, has already been bared for everyone to see.
On Thursday, Dutt said when he had stood by his sister, it was 'as a brother, not a politician'.
'At the time I was rooting for her as her brother not as a politician... times have changed.'
Dutt's sudden rise in the Samajwadi Party has come barely five months after he said 'no politics for me till the next 10 years'.
At the HT Leadership Summit in Delhi in November, he had said: 'I think I have another 10 years to go in acting and I have to pursue that. May be later, I take on politics'.
The plunge into politics has come sooner rather than later.