LUCKNOW: A day after winning the Asansol parliamentary seat for the TMC by over three lakh votes, Shatrughan Sinha said the party's "street fighter" supremo Mamata Banerjee will prove to be a "game-changer" in the 2024 General Election.
In an interview with PTI, he credited Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister, with the victory from Asansol, a seat that the Trinamool Congress won for the first time.
Popularly called 'Shotgun Sinha', the actor-turned-politician, who had started his political career with the BJP but shifted to the Congress before the 2019 parliamentary polls and now to the TMC, said he has now found the "right direction".
"One has to travel a lot to find the right direction...thus far and no further," he said when asked if the TMC will be his final destination in politics.
Sinha told PTI over phone from Asansol that he was excited to start a new and the "best innings" with the Trinamool Congress.
He said Banerjee is gaining popularity across the country after inflicting a crushing defeat on the BJP in the West Bengal assembly polls last year.
"The victory in Asansol was due to the able leadership of Banerjee and the hard work of TMC leaders and workers. This can be seen as an extension of her 'khela hobe' (game is on) slogan."
He said the TMC had decimated the BJP in the West Bengal polls in 2021 notwithstanding the "misuse" of money and power by the BJP.
"Mamata Didi is a tried and tested politician with a street fighter image. Her popularity has spread in the country, especially after defeating the BJP in 2021 West Bengal polls despite the BJP using money and misusing power due it being in the Centre," he said.
Sinha, who is expected to play a vital role in expanding the TMC's footprint outside Bengal before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, said, "Mamata Didi will prove to be a game-changer in the next General Election. My role will be to take her message across the country."
The Asansol Lok Sabha bypoll was necessitated due to the resignation of former Union minister Babul Supriyo, who resigned from the BJP and joined the TMC.
He won the Ballygunge assembly byelection a day ago.
Countering the BJP tagging him an "outsider" during the Asansol bypoll hustings, Sinha said he has done a lot of Bengali movies.
He spoke Bengali during the election campaign.
On his image makeover from a 'Bihari Babu' to a 'Bengali Babu', the newly elected TMC MP said, "I am fortunate that people of the entire country love me."
Mamata Banerjee's choice of Shatrughan Sinha as a TMC nominee has clicked as he broke the Asansol jinx for the party by defeating the BJP's Agnimitra Paul by a margin of 3,03,209 votes.
The margin is much higher than the previous best by Babul Supriyo who had bagged the seat by defeating film actress and TMC nominee Moon Moon Sen by 1,97,000 votes in the 2019 General Election.
Between 1957 and 1967, the Asansol Lok Sabha seat belonged to the Congress.
From 1967 to 1971, it was with the Samyukta Socialist Party.
From 1971 to 1980, the CPI(M) held the seat, before the Congress made a comeback and held it till 1989.
From then till 2014, the seat again belonged to the CPI(M).
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won the seat for the first time with Babul Supriyo as its nominee.
Supriyo won again on a BJP ticket in 2019.
The popular Bollywood actor of the yesteryears had served as the BJP's Rajya Sabha MP thrice and also represented his native Patna Sahib in the Lok Sabha twice.
Sinha has also served in the cabinet of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
After opening a front against the top BJP leadership, Sinha was denied a ticket by the party in 2019 following which he contested from Patna Sahib as a Congress nominee losing to former union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Following the defeat and the grand old party not giving him much responsibility, it was seen in the political circles that Sinha's political innings has come to an end.
But Mamata Banerjee's surprise decision to field Sinha from Asansol resuscitated his political innings.
Sinha said that despite being in different parties, he always shared common thoughts with the TMC supremo.
"Mamata Banerjee was the first to raise her voice against demonetization and GST. I too spoke against these despite being in the BJP," said Sinha, who had attended the opposition conclave in Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata in 2019 despite being a BJP MP then.
Asked about the Congress, he said, "It is going through a crisis phase."
Taking a swipe at the BJP, Sinha said "one-man leadership and two-men army" have taken the people for a ride for long.
"Bearing the brunt of price rise and enormously growing unemployment, people are losing faith in the party," he added.