Shatrughan Sinha set to join Congress: Ex-Bollywood star struggles for political relevance ahead of Lok Sabha polls
Shatrughan Sinha's history of party switching, from supporting Jayaprakash Narayan's Janata Party to joining Congress ahead of Lok Sabha Election 2019
The news of Shatrughan Sinha soon joining the Congress party brings to mind what Mario Puzo wrote in The Godfather - "Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment." Sinha has been seeking some kind of political relevance for a while now and slowly distanced himself from BJP, the political party he has been associated with for nearly three decades, ostensibly to be wooed back. It’s ironic that Sinha, who was influenced by Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan to join politics, has spun around so much that he seems to have forgotten how he had to face the wrath of the Congress during the Emergency for being an admirer of JP.
During the Emergency imposed by the then PM Indira Gandhi between 25 June, 1975 and 21 March, 1977, the mass media was controlled beyond description and one of the major players was the then Information & Broadcasting Minister Vidya Charan Shukla. The Minister was known to throw his weight about and the manner in which he played around with the film industry is both well-known and well documented. It was said that anyone who refused Shukla’s demands was threatened with the controversial law MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) under which the government had the power to indefinitely detain individuals, and also search and seize property without warrants.
When Kishore Kumar refused to make an appearance at a Youth Congress, Shukla’s Ministry banned the legendary singer’s songs from All India Radio. At a similar event where Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand were asked to sign paeans of Sanjay Gandhi, the latter refused and as a result not only were his films banned from Doordarshan but Dev Anand’s name was blacklisted from appearing in any official government communique. Later, Dev Anand met Shulka for an explanation but the actor was told he should praise the government of the day. Dev sahib later went on to launch his own political party, National Party, as well.
Some of the journalists who witnessed the Emergency described Shatrughan Sinha as one of the notable dissenters. Sinha openly criticised many of Indira Gandhi’s actions during the period and his films were also stopped from being broadcasted on Doordarshan. This was a period where Sinha’s popularity was higher than many of the leading stars. He was a super successful villain who also played the odd parallel lead. In fact Sinha, between the early and mid-1970s, was more popular than even Amitabh Bachchan, the one poised to be the next numero uno. There is a story that while Bachchan was vying to land the second lead in Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), the financiers were pushing for Sinha and at a film party when Sinha entered post-midnight everyone made a beeline and Bachchan, who attended the event despite running a high fever, felt he had lost out.
In the their book, Decline and Fall of Indira Gandhi (Vision Books, 1977), D.R. Mankekar and Kamla Mankekar exposed Shukla’s film connections and also mention how Shatrughan Sinha claimed that he was accosted by Shukla to campaign for the Congress in Bihar. The book mentions that Shukla also reportedly threatened to involve Sinha in the Baroda Dynamite case if he refused (pg 86). Just as the Emergency was about to be lifted Sinha. along with many stars including Dev Anand and his brothers Chetan and Vijay ‘Goldie’ Anand, Pran, Danny Denzongpa and Amol Palekar, on 13 March openly asked people to vote for the Janata Party in the upcoming elections.
Shatrughan Sinha’s decision to leave the BJP has long been anticipated. In fact, one could even say that Sinha has appeared mighty desperate to be thrown out of the BJP. For how else could one explain his constant desire to berate nearly everything the BJP has done of late or him sharing the stage with the opposition in rallies asking to save India from the hands of Narendra Modi and praising nearly everything that the Congress President Rahul Gandhi says or does. Sinha’s shenanigans to appear relevant enough to rattle the BJP have been ignored by the party. After everything, Sinha — it is believed — was still hopeful of getting the BJP ticket from Patna Sahib but once the BJP decided to field Ravi Shankar Prasad from the constituency, Sinha had to finally do something.
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