Bollywood star, former union minister, first ever actor to become a Cabinet Minister, disgruntled BJP leader, senior parliamentarian or Sonakshi Sinha’s father – one can address him in multiple ways but the aptest attribute that describes him the best is – Shatrughan Sinha. “My name is my identity! I don’t need any ministership, or any other adjectives or attributes to describe me,” said Sinha in a matter-of-factly manner, with a rather humbleness on his face, when I referred to his criticism by certain BJP colleagues of his, who say that Sinha’s on a dissent spree in the party because he’s not been made a minister in Modi’s government.
When he invited me to, “just to have a freewheeling chat,” he specified, “we wouldn’t discuss politics this time,” but since the time we began, the entire hour-long conversation veered around his and the nation’s favourite topic – Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Here’re the excerpts of Dialogue @ Nation Next with Shatrughan Sinha:
Your aggression towards Modi in your speech at Vidarbha Yuva Sansad is creating furore. It has crossed a million views on Nation Next’s YouTube channel, and is still going viral like anything. Nation Next viewers from across the world are calling you up and writing to you. If we perceive this as an indication of your fans supporting your dissent against BJP’s leadership, isn’t it time you finally quit BJP? You say you first belong to Bharatiya Janata then you belong to Bharatiya Janata Party. Won’t you able to serve Bharatiya Janata better by ending this relationship of longstanding disgruntlement with BJP?
The way things are evolving or devolving, it seems that I will be ousted of the party soon. I agree with you that the uncertainty around my existence in the party has been there for years. But I don’t agree with your notion that I will be able to serve people better by not being part of the party. In public life, by associating with a principled and transparent political party, one can bring smiles on more faces. Pursuing social work individually, without any political base, limits the scope and impact of one’s social work.
Moreover, except certain romantic linkups of earlier times, there have never been any allegations against me (Laughs). On a serious note, I have successfully cleared the endurance test by keeping my personal and political life squeaky clean.
I did a lot of social work, outside the political milieu, before entering the foray when Subodh Kant Sahay roped me in Bihar Bachao Andolan. After that, I was politically groomed under the tutelage of senior leaders like LK Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Nanaji Deshmukh and Kailashpati Mishra.
Finally, I got the exposure of governance with the blessings of former prime minister late Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he entrusted me with the subsequent responsibilities of health and shipping ministries in his cabinet. In all these social and political endeavours of mine, there has been no involvement of the current PM – Modiji – in whatsoever manner. So, why should I quit my party because of him?
But, now the BJP is completely controlled by PM Modi and his closest aide and the party’s president Amit Shah. The way your mentor Advaniji and other stalwarts have been sidelined, the going seems to be getting much tougher for you in the BJP…
Yes. It has happened. The democracy in the BJP has been replaced by autocracy now. Demonetisation and shoddy implementation of GST, without involving or consulting others in the party or even in the government, etc. are clear examples of Modiji’s autocratic approach. No minister has any power to take decisions in even their own ministries. Everyone is just busy showering praises on the PM.
When Modiji says country is bigger than the party, he and I are on the same page. What else am I saying? Am I any less in seniority than him? Does becoming a prime minister mean that you have become a vidwan (too knowledgeable)? A prime minister can be foolish as well. I see him as a colleague and a former friend. He came to my son’s wedding, and I am obliged for the same!
But when he does an act of ‘Looking London, Talking Tokyo,’ I have a problem. Why doesn’t he answer people’s questions on Rafale deal, demonetisation, GST, etc? I am just expecting him to not to be arrogant. I would advise Modiji to seek apology from public, for all the wrongs he’s committed! If American public can forgive their former president Bill Clinton, why won’t Indian public forgive Modi?
How do you foresee BJP’s future under the leadership of PM Modi and Amit Shah? And how do you foresee your future in Modi’s BJP?
One-man-show and two-men-army will not continue for long! Now that weaknesses of the party are getting apparent, no big leader is there to stand besides Modi, as he’s sidelined all of them. Also, he cannot seek anyone’s help out of his conceit. As a senior leader myself, I would suggest the honourable prime minister to go and apologise to Advaniji with folded hands. He keeps on breaking protocols to hug all sorts of people. He should go and hug our senior leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha.
So far, as my future in BJP is concerned, I didn’t join the party to leave it one day. I have learnt commitment to the party from Vajpayeeji and Advaniji. However, I also learnt from them that party is bigger than any individual, and the country is bigger than any party. In the interest of the nation, I am questioning wrongs, and I will continue to do so.
As a result, they have undermined my position in the party. Forget about making me a minister, they have even removed me from all of the committees I was part of. They have tapped my phones. Except for a couple of romantic conversations with some old female friends, they will get nothing out of tapping my phones (Laughs). Na koi kala dhan, Na koi Kali kartoot! (Neither any black money, nor any black deeds.)
As you mentioned about Advaniji, a lot of friends of mine opine that I am paying the price of my closeness with my guru Advaniji. But, uff na Karenge, lab see lenge, aanso pi lenge.
So, will you continue to pay the price of your closeness to Advaniji or will you move on?
As a professional, I shall conclude that I won’t leave the party but whenever the party wants to leave me, I shall salute its decision and then I will take recourse to Newton’s third law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Till then, I can’t reveal my plans.
How do you respond to your critics, who say that you and other senior leaders are unhappy for not having been made the ministers in Modi government?
We all are beyond his ministerships. Even when I was a union minister, I was always recognised as Shatrughan Sinha. My personality is my identity.
You have been criticising Modi to be autocratic, taking wrong decisions like demonetisation, shoddy implementation of GST, etc. But Modi’s charm doesn’t seem to be fading in front of voters at large. If he’s so wrong, then why a regular voter hasn’t still got disenchanted with PM Modi?
Is this theory that the voters have not got disenchanted true? Or is it primarily about fake news and planted stories? Or is it about media being subjugated to power and money? Today’s media reminds me of the media during the Emergency. The way people are leaving in-between the public meetings of the PM says it all. As Rajesh Khanna’s song goes: Yeh Public Hai, Sab Janti hai!
The government is not anyone’s private property. It’s an ongoing process. Today he’s at the helm; someone else will be there tomorrow. And now it’s quite apparent that someone else only is going to be there in power tomorrow.
You say you have been showing mirror to the party leadership by criticising certain actions of theirs. If Modiji, looking at his reflection in your mirror tries to improve upon his image, isn’t it a bit too late for that?
It seems like that. They should have changed earlier. Timing is extremely important in films as well as politics. For now, I would suggest it’s high time Modiji went back to our senior leaders, who have made the party and at times saved the party. Their experience should be leveraged with an emotion and expression of consecration towards them. The need of the hour is to carry on with an attitude of gratitude. It’s definitely difficult to resurrect the party at this stage but notwithstanding Shah Rukh Khan’s dialogue from Don, yeh namumkin nahi hai! (It’s not impossible).
Watch Shatrughan Sinha’s full speech below: