» Election » Shotgun enjoys upper hand in Patna Saheb

Shotgun enjoys upper hand in Patna Saheb

By Saubhadro Chatterji
April 18, 2009 04:23 IST
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Bharatiya Janata Party's star candidate from the newly created Patna Saheb seat in Bihar can certainly afford to talk less ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. His journey to the Collectorate office for filing nomination gathers thousands of enthusiasts, choking the main road of the city. He addresses a packed auditorium where the supporters even ask his wife to speak a few words. The crowd also laughs as a party MLA publicly recalls how the actor came to his college as an alumnus and kept on looking towards the girls' hostel.

When a Lok Sabha candidate has all the Assembly segments of his seat ruled by his party's coalition, he can afford to be relaxed. Especially, when his opponent—another Bollywood star Shekhar Suman of Congress — barely had a few hundred people to rally with him when he came to file nomination today.

Suman, contesting his first Lok Sabha election against the former Union minister, himself admits "I am not sure of winning" to journalists at his ancestral house in Patna's Lohanipur area.

This "star war" in the heart of Patna has its usual filmy dose, too. In what looked like a scripted effort, Sinha's wife said at the city's SK Memorial Hall on Wednesday: "I am handing him over to you people. I have not been cheated and you will also not be cheated". And then, Sinha quipped in his typical style: "See friends, just now my wife has divorced me. So, you have to take my responsibility." Needless to say, the crowd is loving it.

Suman, also a Kayastha like Sinha, is fighting many odds in his battle against the Bollywood senior. He represents a party — the Indian National Congress — which has lost substantial ground in this crucial Hindi-belt state. He is also fiercely fighting against the "outsider" tag while the Shotgun enjoys the affectionate "Bihari babu" nickname. "Who says I am an outsider. I was born here. If a son goes out to work elsewhere and earn money for his family, will you call him an outsider? Emotional connection is the most important thing in life. The Shekhar Suman who was born on this soil can never be an outsider," he said today.

Sinha is touring his constituency on a Gypsy. Suman took a cycle-rickshaw today to file the nomination at the District Magistrate's office. Suman, the 'Movers and shakers' star, prefers white dress for campaigns, while Shotgun wears saffron kurta. Suman talks about his dreams of changing Patna and life of youth, Sinha, a more matured politician, quotes a United Nations report to lament the future of India. Both spice up their speeches with occasional Bhojpuri sentences and refrain from attacking each other personally.

The old Patna constituency was represented by RJD's Ramkripal Yadav. After delimitation, as Yadav preferred to shift to some other constituency the BJP sees this as a retreat of their opponents but is cautious not to allow complacency get into the heads. Apart from the local MLAs, former Union Health Minister C P Thakur and other senior leaders are rallying behind Sinha.

Even the BJP's senior spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad is at least publicly sharing dais with Sinha.  Sinha didn't even consider him to be a proper leader till a few days ago and party insiders say, Prasad had tried a lot to deny Sinha this Patna Sahib ticket. In a meeting on Friday, Prasad extended a warm handshake to Sinha but didn't show any expression while Sinha delivered his speech.  But Sinha sounds reconciliatory now: "If I have unknowingly hurt anyone, I apologize."

May 7 is the polling day in Patna Saheb. But Sinha has already told his followers that he can't devote all time in the constituency as he would be travelling to other parts of the country for campaign.

That's not a big problem. If the mood is any indication, in this "Shotgun versus Shaker" fight, Shatrughan Prasad Sinha can afford to say "khamosh" to his supports. He is likely to silence his opponents too.

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Saubhadro Chatterji