Angry Priya Dutt complains to Congress about 'insult'

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Mumbai:  As Mumbai gears up to vote for its local municipal elections, the Congress has some house-keeping it needs to urgently attend to. Priya Dutt, the popular MP and actor Sanjay Dutt's sister, is upset about not being consulted about the party's candidates. Ms Dutt denies that she has threatened to quit.

"I am angry that as an MP I was not even given the final names. If you're going to insult a Member of Parliament like this, then don't involve that MP in the process at all," she said. Ms Dutt's ire is targeted at Kripashankar Singh, who heads the state branch of her party. He didn't get along with her father, actor-politician Sunil Dutt either.

The elections for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections are scheduled for February 16. The BMC has an annual budget of more than 20,000 crores, making it the richest civic body in the country. The Shiv Sena and BJP together won the last election in 2007. For the first time ever, the Congress is contesting the local election in partnership with Sharad Pawar's party, with who it runs the state government.  

There are 38 BMC seats in Ms Dutt's parliamentary constituency of Mumbai North Central. The Congress is putting up candidates for 29 of these. Ms Dutt is upset that three incumbents have not been allowed to stand for elections again in this area near the airport. Ms Dutt believes that their emphasis on fighting for the rights of slum-dwellers, a cause her father supported, resonates among voters. Among the trio who've been dropped is S Annamalai. "I won this seat thrice, yet I have not got a ticket," he says, bewildered.

The BMC has 227 seats. Deciding how to split those up nearly forced the Congress and Mr Pawar's NCP to skip an alliance. A compromise was worked out at the very last minute. The Congress has announced candidates for 169 seats; the NCP gets to contest 58.

The elections will gauge the mood of voters ahead of the general elections in 2014. Both the Congress and BJP plan to pull out all stops for the campaign. Senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley are among the leaders expected in Mumbai over the next few days to address public rallies. The Congress has also roped in senior leaders including union ministers for campaigning.

The results will also be crucial for Raj Thackeray to prove that his political influence has grown significantly since he split with his uncle and cousin, Bal and Uddhav Thackeray.


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