Patna: There was a chorus for a CBI probe, along with a rallying cry for justice, besides political manoeuvring around his death, but five months on, Bihar’s political parties appear to have forgotten actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
Rajput’s death by suicide in June had prompted a number of parties in Bihar to demand a CBI probe, sparking a back and forth between the BJP and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, and even a tussle between the police departments of Patna and Mumbai.
But with campaigning under way for the three-phase assembly elections, set to begin on 28 October, not a word is being uttered about Rajput by any of the political parties. The electorate is not keen to talk about him either.
Instead, the entire campaign now seems to have worked against Rajput. “Wo toh ganja pita tha. Ho sakta hai usi mein mar aya ho (He smoked weed. He may died due to it,” Sudhakar Singh, a resident of Mokama on the outskirts of Patna, said while speaking to ThePrint.
Singh resides in the riverine area of Mokama in a village dominated by Rajputs, the community the actor belonged to. His sentiments were echoed by Basant Singh, a resident of Paliganj municipal area. “Woh Mumbai mein actor tha. Humko yahan aur bahut se issues hai (He was an actor in Mumbai. I have many other issues here,” he said.
Sources in the BJP said that even the actor’s cousin, Neeraj Kumar Bablu, who is the party candidate from the Chattarpur assembly segment in Saharsa, has not made it a poll issue. “Even Neeraj and his supporters do not touch the issue while campaigning,” a BJP leader said.
Whatever enthusiasm was left for the Justice for Sushant campaign evaporated after the report of AIIMS Delhi ruled suicide as the reason for his death.
Architects let the issue go
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in his first web meeting with supporters in the first week of October did mention that he had ordered a CBI probe because the actor’s family demanded it. But he has not uttered a single word on the issue since then.
Former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey, who retired prematurely and joined the ruling JD(U) hoping to get a ticket, had even released a song claiming to have been the man behind ensuring justice for the actor.
His political ambitions have, however, faltered. Pandey had sought to contest from Buxar, his hometown, but the constituency went to the BJP under the NDA seat-sharing deal.
The BJP was reluctant to hand him the ticket as its Bihar in-charge, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, came under attack from the Shiv Sena.
The Shiv Sena wondered if Fadnavis would campaign for Pandey, who it alleged had maligned the Mumbai Police. The Shiv Sena had threatened to field a candidate if Pandey contested, but the former IPS officer was denied a ticket.
Fadnavis also made it clear that Sushant Singh Rajput was not an election issue and even disowned a poster featuring the actor.
“The Sushant Singh Rajput case was never a political issue for us. It is an emotional issue because he was a Bihari. We just want the CBI to take the case to its logical conclusion,” BJP national spokesperson Sanjay Mayukh told ThePrint.
But even before the NDA, the RJD was at the forefront of demanding a CBI probe in the case. Tejashwi Yadav even wrote to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accusing him of neglecting the case. He had even held a joint press conference with Bollywood actor Shekhar Suman to repeat his demand and call for the proposed film city at Rajgir to be named after the actor.
In the run-up to elections, Tejashwi has also not uttered a word on the issue. His party has chosen a more traditional way to woo Rajputs — handing tickets to Lovely Anand and Chetan Anand, the wife and son of jailed former MP and don Anand Mohan Singh.
“The Sushant Singh Rajput case was never a political issue for us. The actor was a son of Bihar who had done well in Bollywood. We wanted justice for his family and that is why Tejashwi Yadav was the first to demand a CBI probe,” RJD spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwari told ThePrint.
“Now we want the CBI to name and punish those who were responsible even if it is suicide.”
D.N. Diwakar, a senior professor at the Patna-based A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, told ThePrint that the AIIMS report changed the narrative in Bihar.
“It was a superficial issue. Political parties were playing identity politics because they believed it would help them get the support of the caste the actor belonged to,” he said. “But since then the situation has changed. AIIMS has ruled out murder and Bollywood is being stigmatised for alleged drug abuse. Political parties now appear to think that it is best to drop the issue.”