Shatrughan Sinha, ‘the Bihari Babu’, was among the few cine personalities in north India to have joined politics in the 1990s. Having been in the BJP so far, he now finds himself forced to choose a different party for political survival. He bares his heart in an interview with Rajesh Kumar Thakur. Excerpts:
How do you feel leaving the BJP? Did it leave you, or you did?
They call me ‘disgruntled’. But I am not ‘dejected’. I have been ‘ejected’ for being candid and principled. Few individuals would appreciate such tendencies; still fewer parties. Candid politics is rarely practised. So, it has forced me to take off on a political journey again but from a different runway. I do not recant. I do not repent my outspoken image, or politics.
So what cut them up so as to ditch you? BJP leader Mangal Panday said you are left with no party, no prestige, no future.
They said I am too outspoken. Why wouldn’t I be? I experienced Lokshahi (democracy), felt people’s concern and also saw the high tide of aristocracy rising and leading to autocracy. Senior BJP leaders like Amit Shah were arrogant towards leaders like me.
Did you consider yourself good for CM’s post?
Yes, many a time in the past senior leaders like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and others had projected me as best suited face for chief ministership of Bihar.
However, the caucus in BJP’s Bihar unit never allowed it. They overlooked the suggestions of the then party brass to include me, subjected me to humiliation and finally sidelined me from the affairs of party as well. They did not call me for BJP meetings, rallies... But I sat khamosh (silent) as I had jumped into politics, inspired as I was by Nanasaheb Deshmukh, Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narain and Atal Behari Vajpayee, with the aim of being a voice to voiceless people”.
So, you are not done and dusted, as BJP leaders say?
If that were so, I would not have been respected by parties like the Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (United), RJD and leaders of the Congress... I stood steadfast with the BJP only to be sidelined.
You have always had good friends in high places…
I have detailed how much regard I had for Mrs Indira Gandhi in my biography, Anything but Khamosh. Lalu Prasad Yadav is a family friend and PM Narendra Modi has worked with me as a colleague in the party. I still have a lot of regard for him as an individual but he has been misled by his misplaced trust in Amit Shah who has made BJP a party of autocrats. Nitish Kumar is still one of my best friends. I regard him over the leaders of the BJP.
It is alleged that you have turned a bitter critic of BJP just because you were not offered a berth in the Union Cabinet?
What do I lack in comparison to those who got the berths? Am I not a far better personality, orator, performer, intelligent as well as people oriented? But, what did I get? I neither got a promotion, nor protection, nor projection nor appreciation from my party. PM Modi is a prisoner of a coterie. The nation is feeling demoralised due to false promises and a few actions of the government.
What’s in store for you in future?
I am ready to face the future boldly. Whatever the situation, I’ll remain rooted to Patna Sahib. Whoever is fielded against me by the BJP will lose. Few can match my popularity because I have lived for and with the people.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is the BJP candidate in your constituency which has a Kayastha majority?
I don’t hold any grudge against him. He is welcome to the contest...Yeh jo public hai sab jaanti hai aur hisab karegi (The public knows everything. They will decide.) My reasons for going against the ‘BJP line’ in the last few years was because of the situation in the party...If speaking the truth is rebellion, then I am a rebel. But I will show how a candle can withstand the storm if there is faith. I hope to retain my seat with a bigger margin than in 2014.