Shatrughan Sinha at his camp residence in Patna on Wednesday. Picture by Sankarshan Thakur
The saffron saropa, or benediction, from Harmandir Sahib-Patna Sahib, birth place of the tenth and last head of Sikh panth, Guru Gobind Singh, is ablaze round his neck. But it’s the air Shatrughan Sinha wears that’s more arresting, the air of a victor-celebrant donned well ahead of the pronouncement of verdict.
To be told he has won the Patna Sahib seat for the BJP is to him like being told Mondays follow Sundays — a given. He gives his neck a trademark slanted cock, he drops his eyelids slow-mo, then pulls them back and lets out a hearty laugh.
Is that why he seldom stepped out his five-star Patna suite to campaign before three in the afternoon? Because he thought his victory a foregone thing? He laughs another time, more thunderously, almost stereophonic of effect. “Is that what people say? That I didn’t need to campaign? How should I know but the people of Patna have been very kind and loving, they’ve loved me as they love a son of Patna.”
For the moment, though, he is taking a breather from Patna. He has sneaked out of his hotel and burrowed himself behind the high gates of a friend’s bungalow in east Patna’s Rajendra Nagar. This is a Shatrughan Sinha-is-not-here address. “It’s been three weeks of daily grinding, I needed a breather, I needed some quiet time with my family.”
Wife Poonam is still finishing a late afternoon lunch in the room abutting the air-conditioned dive Shatrughan has walked us into. Twin sons Luv and Kush are with the mother, trying to look busy when the father has taken a recess. Against expectation and to some disappointment, their star sister Sonakshi never hit the campaign; Shatrughan is star enough in Patna. “It’s nice to be able to talk without hustle-bustle at the door.”
The saropa is from a thanksgiving ceremony he has just concluded at the Harmandir Sahib-Patna Sahib, but it may well have meant a little victory rite. It is not whether Shatrughan Sinha will win or lose, it is about whether he will stretch his lakh-plus margin from the last election. His own seat is nothing he wants to talk about anymore.
He has elsewhere to campaign, he has a place to begin imagining for himself in what he calls the “dynamic new future set up”, he has errands to run for his chosen “Dabangg”, Narendra Modi, his “shaandaar, jaandaar, super action hero”. Ask him what role he wants for himself under Modi and he parries it consummately: “It will be what he and the party think fit for me, that’s not for me to worry about.”
At the moment, what engages him is the news he’s heard from his alma mater, Bollywood. He’s tearing into the appeal for a “secular vote” made under the aegis of scriptwriter Anjum Rajabali and endorsed by several including Mahesh Bhatt, Imtiaz Ali, Vishal Bharadwaj, Shubha Mudgal and Zoya Akhtar.
“This is nonsense, to divide Bollywood and the nation on these lines, and the sad part to me is all of these are good individuals and friends of mine. But there is this thing called Twitter and I am told they are going ballistic on it, what nonsense.”
But there have been counter tweets from the likes of Anupam Kher whose wife Kirron is contesting Chandigarh on a BJP ticket, and Madhur Bhandarkar. “But that’s my point,” Shatrughan retorts, “Why create this divide? Create a divide between good and bad leaders, good and bad parties, good and bad campaigns, but why this secular-communal divide? It’s dangerous, if one section begins voting one way, other sections will consolidate the other way, this will divide the country. Bollywood has never done this, most distressing.”
Many would say, and his Bollywood colleagues among them, that it is Modi who is the divisive one, that’s why such an unprecedented appeal.
“But this is a manufactured notion, Modi has captured the nation’s imagination, he has spelt out a vision, he is strong, like Indira Gandhi who used to be very fond of me, I had the freedom to walk into her office and I saw what strength she inspired. Modi is like her, Dabangg.”
He pauses a moment and then assumes a filmic posture on the sofa, head tilted diagonally, palms splayed, voice modulated to the Shotgun boom: “I will tell you what Modi is all about. Door drishti, atal iraada, Kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishaana (Foresight and determination, looking one way, aiming in another direction).... Our eyes are now fixed on the eye of the fish.”
What fish and what eye?
Shatrughan flings the saropa round his neck with a flourish and winks. “You know what eye and what fish, don’t you?”
Patna Sahib voted on April 17