1993 blasts forgotten? Why BJP felicitated Sanjay Dutt on Maharashtra Day
The BJP is facing criticism from all quarters over the presence of actor Sanjay Dutt at the Maharashtra Day programme organised by party at Dindoshi in Mumbai.
The actor has been convicted for illegal possession of fire arms smuggled in by Dawood Ibrahim before the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai.
Ironically, the BJP had raised a hue and cry against the frequent paroles granted to Dutt during his imprisonment.
The presence of the controversial actor on a BJP platform has raised several eyebrows, including those of senior leaders within the party.
Not only did the BJP invite him for the Maharashtra Day programme at Dindoshi on 1 May, its city unit president
and MLA Ashish Shelar even felicitated Dutt and shared the stage with him.
As expected, Dutt's presence in a BJP function came as a surprise to many in the city's political circles. He hails from a family of staunch Congress supportes - his late father Sunil Dutt and sister Priya Dutt were both Congress MPs. The actor had also flirted with the Samajwadi Party in the past.
Opposition parties were prompt to criticise BJP for rubbing shoulders with a person who had been convicted in connection with the serial bomb blasts. But many of the critics were from within the BJP.
"We are shocked by the decision of the Dindoshi unit of our party. It was a programme organised by local leaders and they decided who all are to be invited. But we feel that the organisers should have put in some thought before inviting Sanjay Dutt," said a senior BJP leader who did not wish to be named.
Following criticism from the Opposition and party colleagues alike, Ashish Shelar too has distanced himself from the progamme. "I was not aware about Sanjay Dutt being invited. It was the decision of the local organisers. Even I was shocked to see the actor on the stage," Shelar said.
However, Shelar refused to comment on why he shared a stage and even felicitated the convicted actor.
The programme was organised by Mohit Kamboj, president of the Mumbai BJP's Uttar Bharatiya Morcha. He joined BJP on 21 September 2013 and was made vice-president of city unit soon after. Later, he was made president of Uttar Bharatiya Morcha.
When contacted, Kamboj said, "Dutt is a family friend and wanted to pay tributes to Shivaji Maharaj on the occasion of Maharashtra Day. There was no other intention to invite him to the programme."
When pointed out that he is one of the convicts of 1993 serial bomb blasts and BJP has been highly critical of the parole granted to the actor, Kamboj said, "He has served the jail term for the crime and has come out as a more mature man. Dutt is a family friend and there is no political agenda behind inviting him to the programme."
Chief spokesperson of the Maharashtra BJP Madhav Bhandari said, "The decision to invite Dutt to the programme was unfortunate. I can definitely say that his presence on the stage would not help the party at all. In fact, it would cause damage to party's image. We are not aware about the intentions behind the invitation. The decision was taken by local leadership."
However, he dodged the question about Shelar's felicitation of Dutt.