It was effectively a gathering of BJP dissidents, with representatives of the government and other parties in audience. A function to launch actor-MP Shatrughan Sinha’s biography Anything but Khamosh ended up showcasing the lines along which the Bihar defeat has divided leaders in the BJP.
The party’s most prominent critics within — L K Advani, Yashwant Sinha, Kirti Azad —attended the event. Two Union ministers, Harsh Vardhan and V K Singh, were present, as were CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Amar Singh and Congress leader Randeep Surjewala.
Shatrughan and Yashwant, who addressed each other as bhai, were candid in their criticism of the BJP’s strategy in Bihar — the former in the book, the latter on stage. Advani took a swipe at leaders who seek successive Rajya Sabha nominations, a subject that came up because Shatrughan was upset with him when he was once denied a nomination. Advani apologised for this.
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In the book, Shatrughan Sinha tells the biographer, Bharathi S Pradhan, of “notable exceptions” to the rule of not granting a third term in the Upper House: “Many party leaders like Arun Jaitley, and my friends Ravi Shankar Prasad and Venkaiah Naidu were given a third term in the Rajya Sabha.”
Yashwant Sinha said such rules in the BJP were not applicable to everyone. “It’s like SS (Shatrughan Sinha) said in a private conversation, ‘You show me the man, I will show the rule.’ (These rules) will not apply to everyone. The entire political system has to take lessons in consistency, honesty and transparency in approach,” Yashwant said.
Advani, whom Shatrughan considers the “ultimate leader”, said: “There are some people for whom it is not easy to be elected to the Lok Sabha — he is popular enough to be elected not just because of the party… Many people don’t have the courage to contest a Lok Sabha seat.” He said it was a party decision not to give a Rajya Sabha nomination for a third time, yet apologised for the denial. “I felt that I must apologise. I was rather unfair in forcing him to go to the Lok Sabha,” he said.
Yashwant Sinha said Shatrughan “was not even made a campaigner” (in Bihar). “The stark truth is that he was not invited. Those who were managing did not find our utility. He may have got 10 people and I would have got two. But that was an addition,” Yashwant said. He took another jibe at the BJP leadership : “Margdarshak Mandal is a select committee that never meets.”
For once, Shatrughan refrained from any attack on the BJP leadership. But he is candid his book, which includes a swipe on BJP chief Amit Shah. “Amit Shah, our party president, had predicted with great confidence that we would win with 2/3rd majority,” he says. “Perhaps it has become a habit with him because he had said the same thing in Delhi also. But ultimately we got only two or three seats there instead of 2/3rd… Right from state president Mangal Pandey to Sushil Kumar Modi to Rajiv Pratap Rudy to Shahnawaz Hussain, anybody and everybody, repeated his words like parrots with full zeal, enthusiasm and overconfidence.”
At another place, he says Sushil Modi “strongly opposed” him and “fought against” his Lok Sabha nomination “till the end”. “My popularity and clean image and my respectability and acceptability among the masses made him very insecure although I have always maintained that I am not interested in being the chief minister of Bihar.”
Shatrughan’s son Kush read out a passage from the book on how Sinha had helped Yadhya Bukhari, son of then then shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, during the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. Kush’s speech took a different line: he said the debate on intolerance was “needless” and people who were silent on other incidents considered it a “fad” to comment on intolerance. Shatrughan’s daughter Sonakshi said she stood by her father when he came under attack from various people.
Pradhan, who took seven years to write the book with hours of taped conversation, said no member of the actor’s family asked her to delete anything she had written.
From the book
Shatrughan Sinha as quoted by his biographer —
“I also cautioned my party that mehengai, rising prices will be an issue. We’d already shed tears and lost an election over onion prices in the past. So I cautioned them to control the prices of essentials like dal and vegetables or pay the price. And we did end up paying the price for it”
“The party was hijacked by some people in Bihar who conveniently played deaf-mute. They were not ready to listen to (me) or to speak (to me). That’s how they created an impression which the Opposition seized as an opportunity and the Bihari versus Bahari (outsider) slogan was coined. People from Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand were brought in hordes and packed into Bihar, bhar diya gaya, as if the party hadn’t learnt a lesson from the Delhi debacle at the hands of Kejriwal.”
“Certain local forces also joined hands with the baharis to settle scores with me once and for all. But thanks to my strategy, my tweets and the media, it boomeranged on them. Like our friend Lalu Prasad bounced back from the opposition, which was an eye opener to the country, I also bounced back because I was on the side of the truth. I was doing things honestly and with transparency.”
“The crowds came to see as well as to hear me. So it was not just star power, but oratory skills too. Yes, I campaigned for the same Uma Bharti who was expelled from the BJP, against whom action was taken by the party and who has now asked that action be taken against Shatrughan Sinha.”
An astrologer “predicted that I would change my party just once in my political career.”
Anything but Khamosh: The Shatrughan Sinha Biography
by Bharathi S Pradhan is published by Om Books International