Photo Credit: IANS
The launch function in Delhi of actor and rebel Bharatiya Janata Party MP Shatrughan Sinha’s biography was expected to be a platform for dissenting ruling party leaders to have a go at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
However, the release of Anything but Khamosh: The Shatrughan Sinha Biography by Bharathi S Pradhan on Wednesday eventually turned out to be a tame affair. The BJP must have heaved a sigh of relief after only a few of the leaders known to be unhappy with the party leadership turned up for the launch. In addition, those who did attend did not make any overly embarrassing comments.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani and his fellow disgruntled veteran Yashwant Sinha were the chief guests at launch of the book, which has a foreword written by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. BJP MP Kirti Azad, who was suspended in the last week of December for publicly targeting Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over the Delhi cricket association scam, was another star attraction. Other senior leaders such as Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Sushma Swaraj kept away from the function, while invitees such as Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav also skipped the event.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh and the party’s communication department chief Randeep Surjewala were spotted in the audience. Pointing to his signed copy, Singh said he had made the trip only for Shatrughan Sinha’s autograph. Surjewala merely remarked, “ There is something called friendship.”
The event mostly proved a disappointment for people seeking sound bytes from the BJP’s most high-profile dissenters.
Shatrughan Sinha was not his usual brazen self, seemingly deciding that his book should speak for itself. While Kirti Azad sat in the audience and Advani did not say much, it was Yashwant Sinha who kept the dissident flag flying.
The former Union minister was at his acerbic best as he took a swipe at Union ministers Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu, who were accommodated in the Rajya Sabha even though the BJP generally follows a practice of not giving more than two terms to anybody.
Yashwant Sinha said while the rules were cited to deny some party members a Rajya Sabha seat, there were others “who have been given third and fourth terms with a vengeance”.
The topic came up during a discussion on the book, in which Shatrughan Sinha has confessed to feeling hurt when Advani, the then party president, had refused a third Rajya Sabha term to the actor-turned-politician.
While Advani reiterated the party’s policy, he also offered a public apology to Shatrughan Sinha for upsetting him. The veteran leader also acknowledged the innumerable flattering references to him in the book, adding in his gentle inimitable style that these praises could land the actor in trouble.
But Yashwant Sinha was more forthright. He pointed out that Shatrughan Sinha was not upset at being denied a third term, but that the party rule was applied selectively. “That’s what rankled…. he often said in private conversations: show me the man and I’ll show you the rule,” said Yashwant Sinha.
Sidelined in Bihar
There were some passing references to the 2015 Bihar assembly polls and how Shatrughan Sinha, once the party’s star campaigner, was left out by the BJP leadership. “Maybe those who were handling the campaign did not think it was necessary to involve us,” Yashwant Sinha remarked. “It is possible that we could have fetched some additional votes for the party if we had been asked to campaign.”
Yashwant Sinha made no bones about the fact that he was upset and angry that the present BJP dispensation had sidelined him because of his age. The former Union Finance Minister said caustically, “After 75 years, a person is considered brain dead. I am trying to prove otherwise but in reality I am brain dead.”
The otherwise-outspoken Shatrughan Sinha made only a passing reference to the fact that he was not asked to campaign in Bihar, adding philosophically that “whatever had happened was for the best”. Refusing to dwell any further on the issue, he maintained it was time to move on and summed it up by reciting an old Hindi film song. “Chodo kal ki battein..kal ki baat purani…naye daur mein likhein ge mil kar naye kahani”