Poonam Sinha, who was once associated with the BJP and is now contesting against Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow on a Samajwadi Party ticket, says the saffron party of today is different from what it was during Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani’s time. Poonam was allotted this seat by SP days after her husband and actor Shatrughan Sinha quit the BJP and joined the Congress. In this exclusive interview to indianexpress.com, the 69-year-old speaks about taking on Rajnath Singh, working with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP’s Mayawati.
What made you join politics?
The hope for change. I can see the change that people want. And I was the one who worked really hard in 2014 to get this in place. But now I regret it because this is not what we wanted.
Do you regret being associated with BJP?
I regret helping them get elected to power as I was campaigning for the party in Bihar. We had worked very hard to get the gentleman (PM Modi) into power.
What made you join the Samajwadi Party and not the Congress? Is there no conflict of interest here? (Shatrughan Sinha is contesting from Patna Sahib on a Congress ticket)
This is a democracy and everybody has their own ideologies. The Samajwadi Party and the Gathbandhan is not in Bihar and Shatrughan Sinha had said that if he ever leaves BJP, he would not leave Patna Sahib. The situation will be different, but the location would be same. This is the reason why he chose Patna. And no, there’s no conflict of interest at all.
If BJP wins, will you and Shatrughan Sinha regret not staying with the BJP?
Not at all. This is not the party that we had joined. We had joined the party of great Atalji, Advaniji and now it’s a much changed party. It’s arrogant, self-centred and I think the kind of respect that people had that time for everyone working for them is way behind, rather not there at all in today’s party. This is one of the main reasons why Shatrughan Sinha decided to leave the party.
Do you think being new to politics and without any baggage will work for you?
I think so. Change is what people want.
You will be taking on Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, which happens to be a stronghold of the BJP. Where do you think you stand against him?
I will let the results speak for themselves.
How is it working with BSP chief Mayawati? What do you have to say about the SP-BSP alliance?
The experience has been wonderful. Both of them have proved themselves and their mettle. And the work that they have done, I don’t think in India anyone has been able to come up at their level. And the very reason that I joined SP is because of the leader. The leader that I have chosen is a very young and dynamic one. He knows what he is doing. He is educated and does things after thinking and not just because he has the chair.
As an MP, what will be your top three priorities for Lucknow?
My first priority would be women and their issues. And the environment. I would also take up the general issues that the people of Lucknow are facing.
You mentioned women and their issues. Lucknow has a substantial Muslim population. As a probable woman MP from here, what is your stand on the Triple Talaq Ordinance?
I wonder if the government will be able to do what they have promised. There’s hardly any work that they have done. This is something that is in the pipeline for them. So I would rather answer this when it comes to it and the party does something about it.
What do you have to say about the comments made against women politicians? Like Azam Khan from your party, for example.
Whatever comments come that’s not right. Respecting women is a part of our culture and that is what every man should follow.
But someone like Azam Khan, who is from your own party, has got an EC notice for his remarks against Jaya Prada.
I really don’t want to get into that.
There has been a lot of controversy about Shatrughan Sinha campaigning for you. Your comments on that?
He had joined me as my husband and to give me some confidence because this is the first time that I am foraying into politics. It is a very big step for me so he was there just to bless me.
Do you think film actors can be good politicians?
Why not? We belong to this country. Just because we are from the film industry, doesn’t mean that we can’t be good politicians. My husband has proved this, time and over again. I guess we deserve much more.