Star Wars in Patna Sahib Bihari Babu Vs Bhojpuri Babua
By Ajit Kumar Jha - PATNA SAHIP
Published: 06th Apr 2014 10:33:31 AM
The architecturally awesome Patna Sahib is famous for the Takht Sri Harmandirji, the birthplace of Guru Govind Singh and the iconic Gurudwara of Sikhs, second in prominence after the Amritsar Golden Temple. But come elections and this historic hub becomes famous for other more glitzy and glamorous icons.
Call it Bihari Babu vs Bhojpuri Babua. Or, Kalicharan and Kala Patthar fame Bollywood hero vs the popular Bhojpuri idol of such films as Tohre Bina Bhi Ka Jeena. Or, simply BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha vs Congress’s Kunal Singh. The big fight in Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency is the star war between the two cinematic icons—the flamboyant Sinha, 67, the incumbent BJP MP, and the more modest 56-year-old Singh, the folksy film actor who has acted in 136 Bhojpuri films. Singh also happens to be the son of the late Buddhadev Singh Yadav, a minister in the Congress state government of former chief minister Jagannath Mishra.
Patna Sahib has had a tradition of star wars. In 2009, the contest was between Sinha and another Bollywood icon and comedian, Congress’s Shekhar Suman. Sinha registered a landslide victory, with a margin of over 1.6 lakh votes. Suman was reduced to the third position behind RJD’s Vijay Kumar. This year, however, the Congress debutant has an advantage. Unlike 2009 when the Congress and Lalu Prasad-led RJD were contesting as rivals, today the two parties are in a pre-election alliance. Second, Singh is riding an anti-incumbency wave against Sinha who has been unpopular for neglecting his constituency. Moreover, Singh is from the Yadav caste, which is bound to strike a chord among the large community, especially in the vast rural hinterland. Furthermore, Singh’s father had been an MLA from Bakhtiarpur and Danapur, the Assembly constituencies from Patna Sahib and Pataliputra Lok Sabha seats respectively.
Although Patna Sahib is considered safe for the BJP, especially given its numerically dominant and highly educated and urbane Kayasth population which is loyal to the party, Sinha, a Kayasth, is busy fighting the palpable anti-incumbency against him. He was shown black flags by scores of protesters who demonstrated against his candidacy ever since he began campaigning hardly a week ago. Sinha has been charged with forgetting Patna, his hometown as well as his constituency, and neglecting development.
Sinha counters such anti-propaganda by claiming that he has been visiting Patna every month. Further, he has unleashed a mega blitzkrieg campaign by simply adding more star power. His elder son Luv, a young Bollywood actor who acted in the 2010 film Saadiyan, is campaigning for him. Sinha’s wife Poonam Sinha, also a former actor, is campaigning vigorously for him, and daughter, the more popular young star Sonakshi Sinha, has been tweeting vigorously to her seven million followers and fans. Although she is busy shooting for films, she is scheduled to make a last-minute appearance in Patna to boost the chances for her father among the younger voters.
Congress’ Singh relies on his more modest image. “It is a classic fight between the prince and the pauper. Shatrughanji is the prince and I am the pauper,” says Singh, who also plans to partially match Sinha’s family star power with that of his own family stars. His actor-turned-director wife Arati Bhattacharya, a Bengali film icon who has moved to Bollywood, is to join his campaign. In order to attract first-time voters, Singh plans to unleash his son Akash Singh, the hero of last year Bollywood release Bloody Isshq.
To cut Sinha’s monopoly over the predominant Kayasth vote, the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) has fielded prominent neurosurgeon Dr Gopal Prasad Sinha, a well-known Kayasth community leader. Gopal, who is married to Prof Indira Jha, says: “I am not only a formidable rival for Shatrughanji because of my name and fame as a doctor, my service to the community, my honesty and integrity and my caste identity, but also because I am the son-in-law of the 75,000-strong Brahmin community.”
Unfortunately for Shotgun’s rivals, there are too many candidates attempting to make the most of the Bollywood hero’s anti-incumbency. The Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Mrs Parveen Amanullah, the former JD(U) minister, a radical social activist and daughter of prominent Muslim leader and former diplomat Syed Shahbuddin and also wife of senior IAS officer Afzal Amanullah.
Parveen, who had filed a record 600 RTI applications to shake up the system, is the only woman candidate in the fray. She says, “Shatrughan Sinha is a big dhokha on the people; he has cheated the community and is today shamelessly begging for votes. I am openly campaigning against him and the Nitish government on the twin issues of corruption and communalism.” Parveen quit the Nitish Kumar government on February 4 levelling charges of corruption and pointing out gross irregularities in the system.
Both Parveen and Dr Gopal Sinha have been relentlessly campaigning for months now. But the glamour and glitz associated with the two cinematic icons—Shatrughan Sinha and Kunal Singh who began their campaigns recently—have overshadowed the agendas of two more serious and sincere candidates. Notwithstanding the neglect of his constituency, with his anti-incumbency votes divided among too many rivals, the Bollywood icon of yesteryear, Shatrughan Sinha, like in 2009, may yet have the last laugh.
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