Dutt, 56, was arrested in April 1993 for illegal arms possession after a series of deadly bombing in Bombay claimed the lives of 257 people. The blasts were the most destructive in the history of India.
In 2006, he was sentenced to six years rigorous imprisonment but terrorism charges against him were dropped. He was released in February 2016 after serving his sentence with good behavior and conduct.
On Sunday, Sanjay Dutt turned up at an event organized by the youth-wing leader of the BJP, Mohit Kamboj, at the Mumbai suburb of Dindoshi on Maharashtra Day.
They made an appeal to local resident to elect Kamboj in the next assembly elections. Dutt had donned an orange Maharashtrian ‘pagdi’ (turban), spoke in ‘filmi’ style and pledged to do everything for his friend Kamboj.
Kamboj said, “I have a long and friendly association with Dutt. I wanted to invite him and got permission from senior party leaders. And what is wrong, if I invited him to be part of the Maharashtra Day celebrations.”
This has surprised many in political circles and also evoked criticism among opposition parties. “This is a classic case of anti-nationalism, which is not new to the saffron party,” said a local Congress leader with whose party Dutt’s family has had a close association.
Sanjay’s father Sunil Dutt and his sister Priya Dutt have had a long association with the Congress and both of them were even elected to the Lok Sabha on party tickets.
It may be mentioned that even many in the BJP were critical of repeated paroles granted to Dutt while he was serving the sentence in Pune jail.
Right-wing extremist Shiv Sena leader and former Mayor of Mumbai Sunil Prabhu, who defeated Kamboj in the 2014 assembly polls, said “Had they (BJP leaders) loved Maharashtra truly, then they would not have even thought of inviting Dutt to the event.”
The BJP tried to play down the issue by stating that Dutt had attended the Maharashtra Day celebrations at the invitation of Kamboj and it should not be seen politically.
Dutt has had political ambitions and had initially flirted with the Shiv Sena and then joined Samajwadi Party in 2009 as its State General Secretary but quit that party after two years.