Ahead of assembly election, BJP faces the wrath of sidelined ‘Bihari babu’

Patna: The not so angry young man from the Indian cinema industry, Shatrughan Sinha seems to be very miffed with the BJP, the saffron party he has been associated with since 1984, when it was reduced to a mere two parliamentarians or MPs in the Lok Sabha.
Given the sobriquet of ‘Bihari Babu’ even in Bollywood, Sinha, a BJP MP from Patna Sahib, has been efficaciously flirting with the JD(U) just before the elections. The saffron party completely conversant of this increasing proximity has been reluctant to issue any warning to the ‘shotgun’.

When I interviewed Shotgun shortly before being elected as an MP in 2014, he was upbeat about a prospective cabinet berth. After all he had served as a Minister of State and later a cabinet Minister under the Vajpayee regime in the previous NDA government. Critics point put that his proximity with the veteran LK Advani cost him the ministerial berth. Not only he continues to be as a marginal player in the party, just like his mentor, but things soured to the effect that he was not even invited to the Prime Minister’s rally in Muzaffarpur to kickstart the BJP election campaign in Bihar. He seemed to be deliberately ignored even for the party president Amit Shah’s rally in Patna’s
Gandhi Maidan on July 16.

Sinha’s pain of being ignored by Modi is visible in his interview to the news agency PTI in May. He was quoted as saying, “People ask me why I have not been included in the Narendra Modi cabinet despite having seniority, experience and popularity, but I have no answer.”

Sinha has, for long, advocated giving due respect to the senior leaders like Advani, Yashwant Sinha and Murli Manohar Joshi. He himself feels the pain of being sidelined and not getting his ‘due’ in the party. His non-inclusion in the star campaigners for the party during the Jharkhand polls despite having immense popularity was indeed a wake up call.

Too ambitious for BJP and too critical of BJP

Many of his detractors within the state BJP feel that Sinha has always been way too ambitious. Adding to his dicomfort is his spending more time in Mumbai and Delhi than in Bihar. He has been sidelined not only by the central leadership who chose Ravishankar Prasad over him, but also by the state BJP, despite Ravi Shankar’s tremendous lobbying for a Lok Sabha ticket from Sinha’s constituency.

In an interview given to The Mumbai Mirror, few weeks ago, Sinha was very critical of the party and the Modi government. He went on to say that LK Advani had twice wanted him to be installed as Bihar Chief Minister. He has always considered himself as a CM material. When BJP decided to go with Narendra Modi’s face in the upcoming Bihar elections, Sinha reminded the party that Ram Vilas Paswan or Jitan Ram Manjhi should be declared as the party’s chief ministerial candidate as both are Dalits.

When questioned about him flirting with the JD U, Bihari Babu says, “I am not married to the party. I am its loyal soldier. Maybe it’s time for some soul-searching within my party. The fight is ideological, not personal.”
Equation with Nitish Kumar

Displaying his open rebellion, Sinha not only met the incumbent Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar, but also praised his ‘old friend’ for all the good work he has done for Bihar. All this happened just hours after PM Modi launched a scathing attack on Nitish Kumar while addressing a rally calling him a ‘betrayer.’

Taking a complete anti-party line, Sinha advised the Prime Minister to avoid such bitterness. He went on to praise the work of Nitish Kumar and said that the much has happened during his tenure as CM in complete contrast to the party line.

Though, he doesn’t attach much importance to his meeting with Nitish, “Zara si baat ka afsana bana dete hain log’. If some of my party members are confused, then let them stay confused,” says Shotgun in his trademark witty style. His equation with JD U MP Pavan Verma is also well known. JD U has been trying to poach on Shatru for a while now. with the likes of senior party leader Vashishtha Narayan Singh openly suggesting that he is most welcome in JD U fold.

Reluctance of BJP to act against him before elections

Many would doubt his ability to be a mass leader, but Bihari Babu is definetly a crowd puller. He is the one leader who has always been popular among the common Biharis. A party which has been struggling to find a local face who is remotely close to the overwhelming popularity enjoyed by Nitish Kumar, Mr. Sinha is one leader who ,if not as popular as Nitish, but not less than him, either. Sacking him from the party just before the elections would be an embarrassment that BJP could do without. It would also give ammunition to the JD U which has been accusing BJP of using and throwing leaders at their convenience.

If the BJP sacks him, doors of the JDU are always open for Shatrughan Sinha. While Sinha can’t join the JDU because that would attract the penal provisions of the anti-defection law, but he can keep embarrassing the party and its leadership, which he has been doing since a while. This battle with all its churning of a popular masala movie seems to be far from over and Shotgun gets an upper hand as he is acted in plenty of those.