Notwithstanding the widespread sympathy for the late actor it is unlikely that the controversy surrounding his death will become an election issue. ( Sushant Singh Rajput's file photo)

Sushant case: How can an actor’s suicide become Assembly election issue in Bihar?

When the common people of Bihar are neck deep in trouble following the huge spurt in Corona Virus cases, subsequent lockdown, migrant labour crisis, as well as floods, a sizeable section of media, the leaders of National Democratic Alliance and film personalities like Shekhar Suman are claiming that the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput will become an Assembly election issue in the state.

As per schedule, polls are due in October-November. The manner in which Sushant died raised many doubts in his home state Bihar, especially in Patna where he was brought up, and went to school and Purnea, his ancestral district. Leaders cutting across the party lines expressed shock and sought thorough inquiry into his demise.

The leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, was among the first to pay a visit to his father’s home in Patna. The death under mysterious circumstances of Sushant did evoke sympathy in Bihar. This is one  matter; but that it would become a poll issue is totally different.

Neither the mediapersons nor the politicians are raising the issue explaining as to how would it become a topic in election campaign.The BJP and JDU might be trying to woo Rajput votes. But then the upper castes’ votes are always with the NDA. By over-reacting over the suicide of Sushant the NDA leaders are exposing their weakness.

There is a latent fear in the NDA camp that some Rajput votes may shift this time as opposition RJD is trying to attract them. The RJD had sometime back made Jagdanand Singh, a Rajput, as the state unit president. Besides, recently it tried to take into its fold the Rajput strongman of Vaishali district, Rama Singh.

Rama was the one who as the LJP candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha poll defeated RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. Though Rama could not be inducted into the RJD because of the opposition by Raghuvansh, it is well known that he has developed a good relationship with Tejashwi.

It would be premature to predict the Rajputs’ tilt towards the RJD yet the NDA has some other reason to give the Sushant’s suicide issue a new twist. The late actor’s close relative, Neeraj Kumar Bablu is a BJP legislator. As the NDA is finding it extremely difficult to handle the crisis emerging in Bihar following the double challenge emerging after the spread of COVID-19, and floods the BJP and Janata Dal United leaders are badly in need of an excuse to bail the ruling alliance out from the trouble.

But the Bihar watchers are of the view that the Sushant issue–notwithstanding sympathy for the late actor–is not cutting much ice. The mismanagement in health sector, state government’s failure in distributing foodgrains to the people, floods in most parts of Bihar etc. have put the present establishment on the backfoot.

With the help of a strong section of media the NDA leaders are trying to distract the whole attention by raising the Sushant issue. The media trial first started against Salman Khan, Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhat etc. and now the attention has shifted towards Rhea Chakravarty.

While it is the job of the police and related agencies to investigate the matter and the court to give judgement, a whole lot of media-persons are busy in fixing blames. But the fact is that the BJP has often failed in such tactic of distracting the attention of people. Ever since it came to power at the Centre in 2014 the performance of the saffron brigade in the state Assembly elections has been very bad.

The party won the last Lok Sabha poll with a big margin as it  succeeded in raising the issue of national security. Besides, the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi failed to match the stature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the last six years the only states where the BJP  really performed well were Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

The party did manage to win in some smaller states too. Just after the 2014 Lok Sabha poll victory the saffron party won Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand elections. That was the last big victories barring UP and Assam. In Uttar Pradesh the Samajwadi Party in fact gave the state to the BJP on a platter as four months before the poll the father-son duo of Mulayam Singh Yadav  and chief minister Akhilesh Singh Yadav openly started quarrelling among themselves. 

But since then the BJP has lost several significant state Assembly elections. Even after the thumping victory in the Lok Sabha poll last year the saffron party lost power in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and just managed to hold on to Haryana. Its dream to return to power in Delhi early this year too was shattered.

All these poll verdicts came after some favourable development for the BJP. The bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, de-operationalization of article 370, passage of Triple Talaq Bill, the Supreme Court ruling on Babri Masjid and the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act etc. did not  work in these states which went to poll.

If the BJP is now thinking that the death issue of Sushant or the foundation laying ceremony of  Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5 will help it in the election in Bihar it is perhaps expecting something too much. No doubt like Sushant issue, there are an overwhelming number of Hindus who support the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

But not all of them want to see the issue in political terms. The saffron brigade has cashed in on this issue in 1990s and there is now little scope for it now.Even in 1993 Assembly election held in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP was voted out of power. The demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 didn’t work then.

(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views are personal.)

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