Manoj Chaurasia | Apr 5, 2019 | 6 min read
BJP risks Patna Sahib seat to Shatrughan Sinha who might prove ‘Teesre Baadshah Hum Hai’
Patna: The inimitable voice that once said ‘Khamosh’ to all opponents of the BJP is now up against the party's own men this election season. The battle for ballots has taken an interesting twist in Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seat where two political heavyweights –– Shatrughan Sinha and Ravi Shankar Prasad –– who once worked for the same party, will now be taking on each other as arch-rivals.
The seat has been BJP’s stronghold since it came into being in 2009 after delimitation but now the party faces a tough challenge from popular Bollywood actor and sitting party parliamentarian Shatrughan Sinha who has turned a rebel and is set to throw his hat in the ring as a grand alliance-backed Congress candidate.
‘Shotgun’, who had served the BJP for close to three decades, has been winning the seat for the past two terms. Till the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had used him as its trump card, employing him both as a candidate as well as party’s star campaigner owing to his huge fan following across caste and religious lines.
In the last Lok Sabha polls, Sinha who contested on a BJP ticket had won the election by a huge margin of over 2.65 lakh votes, defeating Rashtriya Janata Dal-backed Congress candidate Kunal Singh, also a Bhojpuri film actor.
The Patna boy without a local base
Although the union law minister Prasad hails from Patna, political observers doubt his credentials because he has never contested elections in the past nor has a mass support base.
The Patna Sahib seat is dominated by about 4 lakh upper caste Kayastha community voters and both the candidates come from this caste. The more votes split, the less will be Prasad’s chances of winning, say political experts.
“Sinha is comparatively more popular than the BJP candidate, has been touring his constituency, has experience to face voters and more importantly he will get the sympathy votes for being denied ticket despite being associated with the party since its early days,” feels social scientist Sachindra Nararayn, a former professor with Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies.
Sinha’s political future now depends on the support of the Yadavs, Muslims, Dalits, Kushwaha, and the boatmen community, apart from his fellow caste men who see him as their role model.
The BJP candidate, on the other hand, has nothing to cheer. He banks on the support of the upper castes, Kurmi and Dalit voters but he faces a split vote from his own caste men. Battling hard to win the support of the masses, he is now focussing on “development” issues.
“Development has reduced to a mere poll slogan now. I don’t think this will work,” opines Narayan.
The prestige attached to this seat is underlined from the fact that the BJP-led NDA held its joint rally in Patna last month in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar shared the dais together, forgetting their past rivalry after a decade-long gap. The idea was to charge the voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections but the relatively thin crowd attending the PM rally has hugely worried the top leadership. The NDA had hired 17 trains, 8,000 buses and about 15,000 cars to fetch people to the rally venue from all parts of the state.
The second revolt in BJP
That is not the lone worry. The BJP candidate is also facing a revolt from his party colleague and Rajya Sabha member RK Sinha, who also runs a private security solutions company in India and Australia, who was eyeing this seat.
The prevailing rivalry between the two party parliamentarians has turned so bitter that the BJP nominee was greeted with black flags and angry protests by the supporters of Sinha at the Patna airport on March 26. This had led to a pitched battle in which Sinha supporters were severely beaten up the rival team. The All India Kayastha community had expressed its solidarity with RK Sinha after the incident.
Prasad, on the other side, is accused of being a “rank outsider” and devoting more time to Delhi politics but he denies the charge. “Patna is my city. I was born there, studied there, became a lawyer. Even though I have been working at the national level, I have a deep bonding with the city,” defends the BJP leader.
For ‘Shotgun’, the only controversy that he has been involved with is his relationship with Narendra Modi. He has been caught several times taking potshots at the PM but the popularity and the political clout he wields among the masses is underlined from the fact that the party leadership has not dared to act against him for his indiscipline while it was quick to act against Kriti Jha Azad, another rebel MP who too has joined the Congress.
“I never saw Shatrughan Sinha in my constituency but he is my hero. He has raised issues relating to youths, common men, farmers, demonetisation, etc. Against him, the BJP candidate is trying to politicise the Indian army,” remarked Rajiv Kumar, 47, a voter from Patel Nagar locality.
He said the BJP leadership should have taken note of issues raised by Sinha in public given the fact that he was one of the oldest members of the party. Sinha had made a formal entry into the BJP way back in 1992 when he contested against his Bollywood friend and Congress candidate Rajesh Khanna in the by-polls to New Delhi Lok Sabha seat in 1992. After losing by more than 25,000 votes, Sinha had later said the “biggest regret in his life” was to contest elections against his friend Khanna. He could never rebuild the friendship with him.
For the BJP, Sinha turned rebel apparently after he was not inducted into Modi’s Cabinet. He had questioned the inclusion of a “TV actress and wakil babu (Mr Lawyer)” in the Cabinet without any prior experience, in an oblique reference to Smriti Irani and Arun Jaitley.
It will be a miracle if the BJP is able to wrest the seat from the Bihari babu who might once again say ‘Teesre Baadshah Hum Hai’ after the results are announced on May 23.
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