New Delhi: Shatrughan Sinha, who earlier this year campaigned hard for veteran leader LK Adavni to be nominated for President of India, today told News Channel NDTV that he was speaking for an overwhelmingly large number of people in the BJP.
"80% of my party wanted LK Advani as President," said Mr Sinha, who described Mr Advani as "my friend, philosopher, guide, guru and ultimate leader." In the weeks before the BJP picked Ram Nath Kovind as its nominee for President, the actor-politician ran a campaign on Twitter backing the 89-year-old Mr Advani, a former deputy Prime Minister now sidelined in the party. When asked what Mr Advani thought of his pitch, Mr Sinha said - "It's not like we planned it."
Shatrughan Sinha, 71, was part of a group led by Mr Advani that had in 2013, urged the BJP against picking then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its presumptive Prime Minister. The request was rejected and Mr Modi led the BJP to a big victory in the 2014 national elections.
Mr Advani was retired to a group of mentors soon after, restricted to ceremonial appearances, and Shatrughan Sinha, a former union minister, has found himself on the fringes, excluded from campaigns and important party events. He frequently constructs confrontations with his party with his critiques of its policies, but stated emphatically that he will never quit the BJP.
"The BJP is my first, last and only party. I joined it when it had only two MPs in Parliament. Why should I leave it," he said today, complaining, however, that he is being neglected by what he called the "two-man Army"- a reference to PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
"I tried to meet the Prime Minister a few weeks ago, but he didn't give me time. Even though, he did fly down for my son's wedding and I am very grateful,'' said Shatrughan Sinha, also recalling how he tried to seek a meeting with Amit Shah during the Bihar elections two years ago since he hadn't been asked to campaign, and said even then he was given a cold shoulder. "I was the only one who didn't ask the PM or anyone else, even Sonakshi Sinha (his daughter and popular actress) to campaign for me. And even then I won with the biggest vote share."
Shatrughan Sinha, or Shotgun as he is called by many, has taken on his party's leadership in a fresh offensive over being excluded from a major event in his constituency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will preside over centenary celebrations at the famous Patna University on Saturday, also Mr Sinha's alma mater, but the four-time Patna MP has not been penciled into the BJP's plan.