It is not so easy to ignore me: Shatrughan Sinha
In an interview, actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha opens up about his strained relationship with his political leadership, and also explains why he can't be silenced
If there is one thing that is on a roll, it is Shatrughan Sinha’s motor mouth. Whether tweeting or commenting, the actor has managed to rile his party the BJP, with his statements that has had the party honchos telling the media to ‘ignore him’.
Shatrughan Sinha (second from l) at an event in Mumbai recently. Pic/Atul Kamble
Now, reports come in that the BJP will take action against Shotgun Sinha for “gross indiscipline” only after the Bihar elections, which may be in November. Not that Shotgun is quaking in his boots. On Monday, he notched up another on the irritate-the-BJP-meter, by tweeting that he suggests Ram Vilas Paswan as potential/consensus CM candidate of Bihar from our side.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh (l), BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha (r) and actress Vidya Balan (c) during a ‘Swachh Banega India’ programme in Patna recently. Pics/PTI
This has come after a slew of statements, the most sensational of course was support for Salman Khan who had earlier tweeted about Yakub Memon not deserving the death penalty. Salman had withdrawn his tweet later, but Shatru continued to support that sentiment.
Bihar Chief Minister (CM) Nitish Kumar looking at a model before inauguration of the starting of different schemes at Adhiveshan Bhawan, in Patna
Here, in an email interview from Patna he denies trying to deliberately needle the party, When this reporter asked him questions a few days ago, Shatru said he did not have the time to do the interview.
Delhi Pradesh Mahila Congress activists use onions as ornaments to protest against the price hike of the vegetable, at the BJP head office in Delhi
When told that the time to answer was now, because of the current controversies he said with a laugh down the telephone line, “Well, in a few days, another controversy will come up...” So, true Shatru, you have kept your word.
Q. What was the reaction from BJP party leaders to your comment criticising the expulsion of 25 Congress Lok Sabha members, which seemed to have been the last nail in the coffin after other comments. It was after that comment that the BJP party spokesperson said to the media that they need to ignore you. Has the party spoken to you, personally?
A. No one from my party has spoken to me. I don’t know who has said that I should be ignored, but all I can say is that it is not so easy to ignore me.
Q. Are you doing this on purpose? First, you had supported Salman Khan in his tweets saying that one should not hang Yakub Memon, then there was an irritant about you and Nitish Kumar in Bihar...
A. All I am doing is to speak what I believe in. Nitish Kumar is an old friend with whom I have always shared a cordial relationship. We may be in different political camps but I still believe that political differences should not hide the fact that Nitish is a competent CM who has done a lot for Bihar. In fact, the NDA was a partner in his government, and its leaders used to say the same thing. At a personal level, I felt greatly honoured when Nitish Kumar’s Government named the Bihar College of Health and Physical Education after my late father, who incidentally was the Founder Principal of this institution. This proposal had been under consideration for many years and I am happy that Nitish Kumar took the lead in finally formalizing the decision. As regards, Salman Khan, I believe that the death penalty needs to be abolished, and I welcomed Salman’s courage in voicing his views to the same effect. I spoke up about the Congressmen who were expelled, I respect the Speaker’s rights, but I feel that all political parties should find ways for the functioning of Parliament other than through the mass expulsion of Opposition MPs.
Q. Why are you going against the party line?
A. I am not going against the party line. I am merely speaking the truth on issues about which I have always had the courage of conviction.
Q. Is the BJP very dictatorial?
A. I do not think the BJP is dictatorial. The BJP has always been a party open to discussion, debate and even dissent.
Q. When you are with a political party, you need to agree with that line, otherwise people feel what are you doing there?
A. I am a loyal soldier of the BJP. I do not believe I have transgressed any ‘line’.
Q. Are you looking to quit the BJP? Why are you putting the party in an embarrassing position, having to clean up in a way, after you?
A. Why should I quit the BJP? I have been one of the founder members of the party, standing resolutely with it even when it was reduced to just two members in the Lok Sabha. The BJP that I know, and have helped to strengthen, has always had space for a range of opinion.
Q. Are you going to join the JD(U)?
A. I have no intentions of quitting the BJP. If I am asked to leave, I shall think about the next step.
Q. What is tougher, acting or politics? Do you have to be an actor to be in politics?
A. Acting is about assuming the role you are playing. It comes naturally to me, although I have spent a great deal of time and effort in perfecting this art. Politics, on the other hand, is about being yourself, and having the courage to stand for what you believe in, with the support of the people.
I have never had to act in politics, and my party has always appreciated both my political popularity and my convictions, and my ability to speak my mind. My advice to actors who aspire to become politicians is to make the transition on the basis of a belief system, and not merely for the sake of momentary fame or the lure of power.