After Delhi and Mumbai, another show of the launch of Shatrughan Sinha’s biography was organized in his home town Patna on March 18th. The function was apparently marked by a complete absence of any BJP personality from the state. It seemed clear either Shatru had ignored all of them or the BJP functionaries boycotted his event. The bad blood is obvious.
In Shatrughan Sinha’s early life there are undoubtedly shining spots every Bihari must be proud of. He made a place for himself for so long in the movie industry without a steady godfather. His journey from Patna to Bollywood is superbly commendable and unmatched so far.
When he switched to politics, however, he did have to lean on a godfather in Lal Krishna Advani who drafted him to contest election against Rajesh Khanna in New Delhi. That decision, Shatru says in his book, still rankles him. It sounds strange because when he claims himself as an “ordinary soldier” of the BJP he knows a soldier marches to the orders of his commander and doesn’t question or regrets them.
During the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, Shatru was given a cabinet level ministerial position for five long years (in 2003). In-charge of the department of health and family welfare, Shatru could have made a permanent mark in the hearts and minds of the people of Bihar if he had made Patna or any other city a hub of medical care in any specialized area. The health care system in Bihar has been so pathetic for so long. Shatru couldn’t make even a dent.
Shatrughan Sinha divided his time and attention mostly between New Delhi and Mumbai where he was said to be busy promoting the movie prospects of his kids. There’s nothing wrong per se in being involved in the development of one’s kids’ career, but when in public life, a balance will have to be maintained. In this case, Shatru was no different from Lalu or Ram Vilas, except that he didn’t have the ambition of implanting his children in politics.
In the post Manmohan Singh’s UPA era, Shatru was identified with the Lal Krishna Advani’s faction in the BJP which was sidelined by the resurgent Narendra Modi’s group. Shatru was not in open revolt in 2013 because he might have been denied his Patna Sahib constituency.
Following the Vidhan Sabha election cycle in 2015, Shatru strangely became a critical spokesperson and started poking fingers in the face of his party. People could have given him attention, but there was not much in his profile that could have qualified him as a people’s person. Almost feudal in demeanor, he had behaved more as a VIP staying mostly beyond the reach of his constituents. He had been fielded by the party from a safe constituency and his parliamentary obligations had only been sketchy or on a part-time basis.
Shatru always complained that he was sidelined during the Bihar election campaign and that certain leaders from the state felt insecure around him. But again, the point is, if as a soldier he had felt so strongly about his party, the BJP (and some candidates he cared for), he could have offered his shoulders in the contest without much expectation from the party (or a helicopter). He could have shown his leadership skills by campaigning on his own. Then the people (and eventually the party) would not only have followed but worshipped him.
Now, Shatrughan Sinha’s open embrace of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav is alleged by his critics to be one of the reasons behind the BJP’s rout at the Vidhan Sabha election. His eloquence at the state of the Bihar party unit -- before and after the election -- has angered many supporters and sympathizers. A disciplinary action against him was awaited. Shatru dared the party bigwigs, and asserted that it wasn’t in their DNA to sack him. He’s now assured of political asylum by Lalu and Nitish in case he is thrown out of his party. He knows he can’t bank on that lofty promise.
Instead, with charisma and name recognition taking him into his 70’s, Shatru can still choose to lead a path forward in Bihar. For that he will have to make a U-turn in his life. He will have to be in Patna full time and start with his own party, the BJP. With no hidden personal ambition, he will have to work as a consensus builder, challenge the deadwoods, and see to it his party has internal democracy down to the village Panchayat level. He must win the support of the Muslims and Dalits for his party by making its platform all-inclusive. His party must recruit characterful, bright, educated and talented young men and women (rather than ruffians) who could command confidence of the people and assume future leadership.
There has to be a dependable robust and progressive political alternative ready to displace and take over in Bihar. Shatrughan Sinha can contribute constructively to that end.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.