Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Patna Sahib, Shatrughan Sinha, who is considered to be Bihar’s first movie icon, is actively exploring options to field his wife Poonam Sinha in the coming Assembly elections on a Janata Dal United ticket. Although Sinha could not be contacted, a source in the JDU said that the “Bihari Babu” is toying with the idea to field Poonam, from either Bankipur or Digha constituency in Patna.
Poonam Sinha, who comes from a prominent Sindhi family, acted in Hindi cinema under the screen name Komal in her early career. A former Miss Young India (1968), she has worked in minor roles in Hindi movies and has also produced two films. The couple has two sons, Luv and Kush, and a daughter, Sonakshi, who is a film actress.
Patna has three Assembly seats, Bankipur, Digha and Kumharar. In the 2010 Assembly elections, Digha was won by a JDU candidate named Poonam Devi. The JDU and BJP fought the 2010 elections together. But of late, Poonam Devi has turned rebel and joined the Jitan Ram Manjhi camp, which is part of the BJP-led NDA fold. The other two neighbouring Assembly constituencies, Bankipur and Kumharar are held by Nitin Navin and Arun Sinha, both of the BJP. All three seats are dominated by the Kayastha community, to which Shatrughan Sinha belongs. Both Navin and Sinha belong to the Kayastha community.
A source in the JDU said that Sinha is miffed with the BJP as he thinks that he has been sidelined within the party, and is therefore, exploring options for his wife in the JDU. Sinha recently met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar twice in one week, fuelling speculation about his plans. The actor-turned-politician also embarrassed his party by endorsing a mercy petition for terrorist Yakub Memon.
After the Kayasthas, the Yadavs are the second largest caste bloc in Patna. Shatrughan Sinha, it is known, enjoys good support of the Yadavs as well. Sources say that this is probably why he wants his wife to contest from Patna.
Although Shatrughan Sinha has always been inaccessible, many Kayastha voters of Patna Sahib have high regard for him. “He has disappointed us badly as a leader, but still our support for him remains. That is the reason why we voted him in 2009 and also in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. We have enjoyed his stardom. He is the first Bihari icon who gave identity to Biharis all over India,” said Prof Pradeep Kumar Chunnu, general secretary of the Chitragupta Samaj, Bihar, an umbrella organisation of Kayasthas. He, however, said that Kayastha community was shocked that Sinha signed Yakub Memon’s mercy petition, “but still we are with him”.
According to Chunnu, the Kayastha community will support Poonam Sinha if the JDU decides to field her from any of Patna’s three constituencies. “Sinha was the biggest crowd puller for the BJP in rallies when it had hardly any leaders, except Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. But now when the party has grown so much and is in power at the Centre on its own, it is sidelining him. We are disappointed by the raw treatment meted out to him by the party leadership,” said Chunnu.
Taking political advantage of this alienation, Nitish Kumar has been wooing the Kayastha voters for a long time. Keeping this in mind, he first inducted Ranbir Nandan, a prominent Kayastha leader from Patna, into the party, and made him a Member of the Legislative Council. Nandan has an RSS background and was a state BJP secretary and a co-convenor of the education cell of the national BJP before he joined the JDU two years ago.
Nitish Kumar is using the skills of Pawan Verma, a former IFS officer and a Kayastha, to woo the caste. He is also considering fielding another Kayastha leader, Ranjit Sinha, a former Congress minister, who recently joined the party, from Digha constituency. The former IFS officer is likely to be joined by the former superstar soon in the Nitish column.