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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Support to Sanjay Dutt : Congress Divided

Congress seems to be speaking in different voices on the Sanjay Dutt issue out of its political compulsions.

While the official party position continues to steer clear of the knotty issues concerning the Bollywood actor's conviction by a Tada court and maintains certain distance from him, two ministers have gone gung-ho in lionising Sanjay and drumming up support for him.

"We are concerned about Sanjay but a political party cannot do anything about such a case; we must have confidence in the legal system," Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said on Monday reiterating the party position.

This seemingly terse and detached statement was purported to be the party stand on the illegal possession of arms case resulting in a six-year jail term for Sanjay. In taking a diagonally opposite view, minister for science and technology Kapil Sibal urged Congressmen to rally behind the Dutt family in the hour of crisis.

"Congress should stand by the Dutts because of the enormous contributions made by them," Sibal said. He, in fact, assailed former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee for questioning his stand and asking him not to "send a message" during the pendency of the case.

Incensed by Sorabjee's remarks, Sibal accused him of maintaining silence on the Ayodhya demolition issue. "He never said it was improper for the law minister (in the NDA government) to give certificates of innocence to L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharati," Sibal said.

He also wondered why Sorabjee had "kept quiet" on the Gujarat riots. "What happened to his moral streak and righteousness when Gujarat was convulsed by riots?" Sibal asked.

Moving even a step further, his cabinet colleague P R Dasmunsi said that Sanjay Dutt inspired the younger generation. Seen in the context of such strong assertions, the restrained statement of the official party spokesman appears to be intended to serve a purpose.

As a political party, Congress seems reluctant to side with the actor known for his association with the underworld at one point in his career and tried and convicted in a case linked to the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. Perhaps the party is apprehensive of evoking a middle-class backlash by openly siding with Sanjay. Congress insiders admit that taking a more sympathetic stand would have paved the way for demands for support for every partyman getting caught in a similar legal tangle.

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