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Straddling two worlds

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Rahi Gaikwad

PARTY: Congress

CONSTITUENCY: Mumbai North Central

STATE: Maharashtra

MISSION STATEMENT: Addressing the needs of the people on a day-to-day basis.

Suave and cosmopolitan, Priya Dutt belies the traditional image of a politician. The Congress MP will contest the coming Lok Sabha elections once again, from Mumbai North Central — created after delimitation.

The daughter of actor and Congressman Sunil Dutt appears to have learnt how to connect the two separate worlds of the city’s elite and its poor, which her constituency houses.

A people’s person

She puts development, infrastructure and rehabilitation of displaced people on top of her agenda. Calling herself a “people’s person,” Ms. Dutt says, “My constituency is very diverse; it has both rich and poor. It has the largest population and addressing the needs of the people on a day-to-day basis will be my lookout.”

Stressing her down-to-earth image, she says she took part in the rally to express solidarity with the victims of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai as a citizen.

Ms. Dutt also maintains she likes working with people more than engaging in politics. She underscores the importance of bolstering the local police force and bringing about reforms in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. “The local police force is the first line of defence,” she says.

Questions about her equation with her brother and Samajwadi Party candidate in Uttar Pradesh, Sanjay Dutt, are deftly fielded. “My brother is with me. Our political goals are the same, though the platforms are different. Politics is not bigger that our relationship,” she says in response to questions about campaigning for her brother.

She is, however, not willing to comment on the Central Bureau of Investigation’s objection to Mr. Dutt’s candidature.

Denying that her development planks were elitist, she says she will concentrate on building toilets in the slums, developing open spaces for the public and addressing the water problem in her constituency.

On being asked about her low attendance (46 per cent) in Parliament, the Congress MP cited family responsibility and the pressure of bringing up two children.

Top on survey

Ms. Dutt, who represents the young face of politics, was listed as the topper in a recent survey conducted for a local newspaper. Three years in politics have taught her a lot. “I have always said that the last election was my father’s election. This time it is going to be different. I am actually seeing how it is done.”

In 2005, Ms. Dutt won with an impressive margin of 1,72,043 votes despite the low voter turnout. Her visibility today is higher; and she says she wants to get on with her work with honesty and sincerity.



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