Shatrughan Sinha, who is popularly known as the ‘Bihari Babu’, draws a crowd of thousands of supporters every time he steps out on the streets of Patna. His nomination in Patna Sahib was a spectacle as the air reverberated with slogans of ‘Bihari Babu Zindabad’.
Yet, the ThePrint published an opinion piece Tuesday written by an India Foundation fellow and Assistant Professor at Patna University titled ‘3 reasons why Congress’ Shatrughan Sinha is staring at defeat in Patna Sahib’. The author did not delve deep into the reasons, instead the opinion reads like a promotional piece for the BJP’s candidate from Patna Sahib, Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The first point the article makes is supposed to be on organisational background. It glosses over the BJP’s organisational strength by stating the number of assembly seats the party has won in the parliamentary constituency. It then goes on to call Ravi Shankar Prasad a tried-and-tested lawyer-politician from the BJP, narrating his family background and stating how his father was a prominent Jana Sangh politician. It also talks about Ravi Shankar Prasad’s educational background and reminisces his ABVP days.
The author doesn’t justify how a politician can be termed “tried and tested” if he hasn’t contested a single Lok Sabha election and has always been given a Rajya Sabha seat instead, as is the case with Ravi Shankar Prasad. Worse yet, it presents nepotism as a virtue and associates the names of several big politicians with Ravi Shankar Prasad in order to justify why he would win.
It also makes no mention of Shatrughan Sinha’s organisational background, a politician who won two Lok Sabha elections from Patna Sahib and has campaigned across the country for the BJP since 1984 when the party had only two MPs.
The second point raised in the article is on the performance of the candidates. The author makes grand statements on how Ravi Shankar Prasad is a hands-on leader while Shatrughan Sinha hasn’t achieved much as an MP. The article provides nothing factual or driven by data to support this statement.
Facts, however, show that Shatrughan Sinha has been a much more proactive parliamentarian in ensuring development work in his constituency than Ravi Shankar Prasad. Data shows that Sinha spent 106.83 per cent of the funds allocated to him under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) in the current term. During his previous term (2004-2009), he utilised 107.91 per cent of the funds. This is the only metric of an MPs performance that can’t be gamed, unlike statistics for parliamentary questions and debates that depend on factors beyond an MP’s control and have been of little purpose during this government’s tenure.
In contrast, the MPLADS website shows that Ravi Shankar Prasad is still getting instalments released from 2015-16 in February 2019.
The author, in his attempt to discredit the work of Shatrughan Sinha, talks about bad urban planning and lack of infrastructure in Patna, forgetting that the BJP and the JD(U) have together been ruling the state for much of the last 14 years. This would make the incumbent chief minister and the BJP ministers a lot more responsible for the lack of development in the state’s capital than the area’s MP, as urban planning and infrastructure are essentially the responsibilities of the state and the municipal authorities.
The condition of Patna’s urban infrastructure that the author describes would, in fact, support Shatrughan Sinha’s views on how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed to deliver on his promise of ‘Smart Cities’ as Patna is also one of the cities selected under the scheme.
The last point that the article makes is full of half-truths and lies. The point with a provocative sub-heading ‘opportunism at its worst’ barely talks of opportunism, and instead focuses on the candidature of Shatrughan Sinha’s wife from Lucknow. It states that Sinha has no designated campaign office in Patna and spends more time in Lucknow. Both points are factually incorrect.
Sinha has a central campaign office operational in Kankarbagh, the same area where his election office was located during the 2014 elections. He travelled to Lucknow only on the day his wife filed the nomination papers.
Questioning the failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in delivering “achhe din” even at the height of his popularity would be the exact opposite of opportunism.
Who wins Patna Sahib is a matter that will only be resolved on 23 May. Reading the article would reveal there is little to support the notion that Shatrughan Sinha is losing from Patna Sahib. The article is pure propaganda masquerading as an opinion.
However, the issue is that in an election dominated by viral tweets and WhatsApp forwards, several people will form their opinions based on the headline rather than analyse the contents of the article.
Voters must remember that their most important job isn’t just to vote, it’s also to be a well-informed voter.
The author is a data analyst and political consultant working with Shatrughan Sinha’s campaign. Views are personal.