In 1999, a young Syed Shahnawaz Hussain created history for the BJP by winning the Lok Sabha election from Bihar's Muslim-dominated Kishanganj constituency. His victory was even more significant then as the BJP's other emerging Muslim face Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the sitting MP from Rampur and a Union minister, had lost that election for the 13th Lok Sabha.
Shahnawaz was only 30 at the time and was inducted into the Council of Ministers by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In the next two years, he was first elevated to the rank of the Minister of State for Coal (Independent Charge) and then to a Cabinet rank, with charge of the high-profile Ministry of Civil Aviation. At 32, he had the distinction of being the youngest ever Union Cabinet minister. He also held charge of the Ministry of Textiles.
He became the BJP's young and energetic Muslim face, liked by both Vajpayee and LK Advani, and remained an important influence in the BJP's organisational structure.
Shahnawaz entered 14th Lok Sabha by winning a by-election (after Sushil Kumar Modi resigned from the Bhagalpur parliamentary seat to return to Bihar politics and take up the post of deputy chief minister). He won the election again in 2009 to enter 15th Lok Sabha, becoming a three-time MP. While he lost the last parliamentary election in 2014 by a very thin margin, he remained a member of the party's central election committee, an all-important body that makes the final decision on distribution of tickets.
Now, 20 years after he first made news on a national scale by making a surprise entry into Parliament and the Cabinet, Shahnawaz is back in the headlines again but for wrong reasons this time — the Bhagalpur Lok Sabha seat, from where he contested three time (won twice and lost once by whisker) and was preparing for a fourth contest, has been assigned to ally Janata Dal (United) under their seat-sharing agreement in Bihar. Sources said the BJP did not insist for the constituency either.
It's a fact that Bhagalpur has a substantive presence of Muslims and Yadavs, but the BJP had won this seat in 2004, 2006 and 2009. So far, as Firstpost had learnt, the party does not have any alternative plan for Shahnawaz to contest from any other seat. There were some speculation that he might be offered the Araria seat, but that is unlikely to happen.
Shahnawaz's membership in the BJP's central election committee makes the situation ironic. He now finds himself in an awkward position, not being able to secure a seat for himself even as he sits on this all-important panel with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and bigwigs like Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Sources said Shahnawaz's chances of getting a party ticket are minimal as the names of all candidates have already been informally approved, even though the BJP has not announced its list of candidates for its share of 17 seats in Bihar.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had been a Rajya Sabha MP so far, will now contest the Lok Sabha election, replacing a disgruntled Shatrughan Sinha in the Patna Sahib constituency. Union minister Giriraj Singh is expected to shift from Nawada (this seat has gone to the JD(U) under the alliance deal) to Begusarai; Union ministers Radha Mohan Singh, RK Singh and Ram Kripal Yadav will fight from the seats they won last time, Motihari, Ara and Pataliputra, respectively; Rajeev Pratap Rudi is set to be renominated from Saran.
For now, Shahnawaz can relax, wait for his turn, and in the meantime, continue to bat for the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha election as a national spokesperson and campaigner for the party.
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Updated Date: Mar 19, 2019 13:51:16 IST