Cine star and former union minister Shatrughan Sinha is frontrunner in the race to bag the BJP ticket for the Patna Lok Sabha seats. Eloquent and controversial, Sinha bares his heart to Rakesh Verma in a freewheeling, exclusive interview.
One image of yours that often comes to mind is that of a bleary eyed model for a whisky ad. Another is that of a typical politician hanging on to Lal Krishna Advani’s coattails? Which is the real Shatrughan?
(Guffaw) Neither. The real Shatrughan has a mind of his own, which even Advaniji recognizes and respects. The ad you refer to was done a long time ago. An ad is an ad, nothing more.
So where does Shatru, with all his years in Mumbai, fit into caste ridden Bihar?
I would like to be known as a sensitive, casteless Bihari. An Indian who truly believes in India’s pluralism. I’m above narrow, caste considerations.
As a Kayastha, don’t you think that after Dr Rajendra Prasad and Jayaprakash Narayan, other Kayasthas have not mattered much in Bihar?
Dr Rajendra Prasad and JP are national icons. It would be unfair to compare their contribution with those made by other eminent Kayasthas. The contribution of Kayasthas in the making of Bihar has been as extensive and as rich as contribution by other castes.
Was your meeting with Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, when Sanjay Dutt was joining his party, a message to the BJP - that if it did not humour you, you could get to Patna on a Samajwadi ticket with Rashtriya Janata Dal support?
(Laughter) Can’t politicians have friends who think differently or are members of different political parties? I believe in personal relationships. Where and how does ideology come in? I have a whole lot of friends whose company I value. They span the political spectrum. I admire Amar Singhji’s political acumen.
As for Sanjay Dutt, he knows that when he was considered an untouchable, I had spoken out in his favour. He has taken a certain decision and I respect him for it. My being there was incidental—nothing should be read into it. I had joined the BJP when it was down to just two MPs in the Lok Sabha. If I were hankering for political power, that was hardly the time to become its member.
If you become BJP candidate from Patna, what priorities will you put forward to the voter?
First, let me make it clear that my name is yet to be officially announced by the BJP as its candidate for the Patna Saheb seat. I think it was extremely magnanimous of the party’s top leadership to say that Shatrughan Sinha is a national-level leader, and free to choose his own constituency, wherever he wants. But I would still insist that it is up to them to decide which Lok Sabha constituency I should contest from.
My preference for the Patna Saheb seat is obvious—I am from Patna and have spent a major part of my life here. My bonds with the people here are special and time-tested. Most of my MP development fund has been utilised here in Patna and Bihar, the Mahavir Cancer Sansthan being a major beneficiary.
How do you react to Ram Vilas Paswan’s claim that the moment is right for the state to have a dalit Chief Minister, even a dalit prime minister?
Paswanji’s claim is undoubtedly mired in the numbers game. There is no denying the fact that dalits are a huge constituency, that they have been denied privileges that other communities have had access to in the past. But there is the need to examine one simple premise—whether dalits have the capacity and the ability to rule a country as complex as India. Their time is yet to come, as it surely must. The numbers game, I believe, is unfortunate. We, in the BJP, I believe, have the largest number of dalits who are peoples’ representatives.
What do you make of Nitish Kumar as a chief minister?
His intention to fast-forward Bihar into the league of developed states is commendable. That the development clock had stopped ticking in the state for the past decade or so, is something that cannot be denied. Nitish Kumar has had to start from scratch. Despite that he has made a lot of headway. Remember, he came at a time when the state was sorely in need of a healing touch. But at the same time I must confess that I share an extremely warm relationship with Laluji. I believe he too harbours similar sentiments towards me.
Would you get Narendra Modi to campaign for you during the elections?
The question is hypothetical. The party is yet to decide upon a candidate for the Patna Saheb seat. However, if the party wishes that I contest, as its disciplined soldier I will. As for Narendra Modiji, if at all I have to get him to campaign for me, it would be because of his development work. Look at the manner in which Gujarat has progressed under him; On many parameters, it is even ahead of Maharashtra. I would surely like to learn from him.