Nearly six months after BJP patriarch L K Advani won the 1991 Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar as well as New Delhi, actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha got a call from the veteran saffron leader.
While retaining Gandhinagar, Advani had vacated New Delhi seat from where he won defeating Congress’ Rajesh Khanna by a wafer-thin margin of around 1,600 votes.
Advani wanted Shatrughan to contest the bypoll from the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency as BJP nominee against Khanna, whom the Congress fielded again in the aftermath of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
“It was a triple whammy for me. First, a popular superstar like Rajesh Khanna was fielded by the Congress from the prestigious New Delhi seat. Secondly, post-Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, there was a bit of sympathy for Congress. And thirdly, but most importantly, I faced a hostile New Delhi electorate, who voted for Advani ji, my friend, philosopher and guide, during 1991 polls, but he vacated the seat while retaining Gandhinagar” Shatru told DH, dwelling at length on how he lost his maiden election to Khanna in the 1992 bypoll by nearly 27,000 votes.
“So angry was Khanna with me for contesting against him that he never forgave me. Looking back, I regret my decision, which was more an emotional one,” said Shatrughan, who later became a four-term MP in the next three decades.
Though having lost the New Delhi poll, Shatrughan’s stocks in the BJP saw a quantum jump and he became one of the three top star campaigners (The other two being Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani). This correspondent has been a witness to how helicopters and private jets would be kept ready to fly Shatrughan just like Vajpayee and Advani during electioneering.
But those were the days.
Having served the BJP as the Rajya Sabha member twice (from 1996 to 2008) and then twice as the Lok Sabha member from Patna Sahib for the past 10 years (from 2009 to 2019), Shatrughan on Thursday said he would join the same Congress against which he made his poll debut 27 years ago.
Apparently, his political journey has come a full circle as he will contest from Patna Sahib as a Congress candidate against Union Minister and BJP nominee Ravi Shankar Prasad.