Priya Dutt gears up for a much tougher war

| | Updated on: Apr 02, 2014
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She is unfazed by Poonam Mahajan, AAP challenge

Priya Dutt emerges from her Ajanta Arts studio-turned-office in Bandra to greet a group of young men. They are from neighbouring Chandivli and have been waiting for hours just to reiterate their commitment to her party, the Congress.

‘Dirtier, aggressive fight’

Her pedigree is only too well-known. Her father, the late Sunil Dutt, was an integral part of Hindi cinema for decades before he became an active Congressman. The daughter, who has followed his footsteps, now perhaps faces her biggest challenge in her 10-year career with a strong anti-Congress sentiment across the country.

“When I reach out to people, I ask them what you had 10 years ago and now. They realise that they have better water facilities, most of them have mobile phones, and enrolment in schools has increased. Of course, more needs to be done,” Dutt tells Business Line as she settles down for an interview.

Yet, even while the election season “gets dirtier and more aggressive each year”, for Dutt, it is a 24x7 routine as she takes on the anti-incumbency factor. From her viewpoint, a candidate’s work matters more to voters and it is with this belief that she plans to reach out to her voters in north central Mumbai.

Her rivals this time will include 33-year-old Poonam Mahajan, daughter of the late BJP MP Pramod Mahajan. At the receiving end of criticism from the opposition, Dutt hits back on the issue of not reaching out to people and solving problems and says her rivals need to be “more responsible in giving solutions”.

For instance, the subject of security and women’s safety has been on the radar for a while now in a city which has otherwise prided itself on these parameters for many years. Dutt believes the landscape is changing due to the rapid increase in population.

“Also, when we talk of women’s safety, the fact remains that more incidents are being reported unlike earlier. Today, aspirations have grown and there is greater migration to the city. Any evolving nation goes through these problems and we need to deal with them,” she says.

Dutt is hopeful that the public’s perception of the police changes with time as the law becomes more citizen-friendly. The other challenge to tackle is the falling quality of education in Government and municipal schools. “We have to look at upgrading them to be at par with private schools through public-private partnerships,” Dutt says.

Fixing Education

And even though her proposal was not accepted by the State Government, she adds that private schools are ready to throw their hats into the ring. “So, we end up fighting against the corporation all the time even though it is not my job,” a visibly exasperated Dutt says.

Her actor-brother, Sanjay Dutt, has been in the news more often lately thanks to his parole from Yerwada jail in Pune where he is serving time. Dutt does not subscribe to the argument that this will impact her voters.

Likewise, she is unfazed by the Aam Aadmi Party’s effect in the city. “The AAP wave started off well with their fight against corruption. But after that, I think they lost their way and the agenda is something no one knows today,” Dutt says.

Published on April 07, 2014

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