Patna: One of the BJP's 40 star campaigners, Bollywood actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha is missing from the hectic campaigning unleashed by his party for the Bihar assembly elections.
The Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian from Patna Saheb - popularly known as 'Bihari Babu' and 'Shotgun' - has so far not addressed even a single rally in poll-bound Bihar, giving credence to speculations that he is unhappy with the BJP top leadership for sidelining him for over a year.
Sinha's name was at number 30 in the BJP's list of star campaigners submitted to the Election Commission and it was expected that he would be canvassing votes for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
"Shatrughan Sinha is not likely to campaign for the BJP during the Bihar assembly polls. He has not visited Bihar ever since campaigning was launched in the state last month," a BJP leader considered close to the Bollywood star said.
However, he said Sinha was not unhappy for being sidelined or not included in the union cabinet, but was feeling hurt over the fact that he no more got respect in the party.
Interestingly, others who have so far kept away from the BJP's campaigning are party veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, though their names too figure in the party list of star campaigners.
Theatre activist Jai Prakash recalled that in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections or state assembly polls in 2010, Shatrughan Sinha was a star campaigner for the BJP to woo the youth.
"After all, he is a star in his own right. He also helped the BJP in several elections. But now, Shatrughan Sinha is upset over being ignored and sidelined within the party after Narendra Modi became the prime minister and Amit Shah the party president," he said.
In fact, the Bollywood star was not even invited to a BJP rally in Patna in April, or for that matter to the Modi rally in Muzaffarpur at which the party campaign was kicked off in July.
Old timers who have kept a close watch on the political developments in Bihar in the past three decades pointed out that Sinha was known for his free and frank talk that sometimes embarrassed his party and sometimes he even went against the official party line.
However, Shatrughan Sinha managed to get out of tricky situations due to his closeness to Advani. After Advani virtually lost his say in the BJP, Shatrughan Sinha's habit of straight talk cost him politically and he was sidelined. It angered him.
Buzz in political circles here is that the BJP would act against a defiant Shatrughan Sinha once the Bihar assembly polls are over.
BJP sources said Sinha's repeated statements in support of Janata Dal-United leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his meetings with the latter did not go down well with the party brass. Sinha even described Nitish Kumar as the country's best chief minister and a guardian of Bihar.
He also praised and met Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad. "The BJP has taken all this seriously as our fight is against Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad ever since they joined hands. How can the party tolerate its own senior leader praising rivals in public," asked a BJP leader.
Shatughan Sinha also backed the BJP's Lok Sabha member from Ara, R.K. Singh, who alleged that the party "sold tickets" to tainted and criminal candidates for the Bihar polls.
Sinha has time and again reminded party leaders that he joined the BJP in 1984 at the height of his film career and when the party had only two members in the Lok Sabha.
Although Sinha has been maintaining that he is a loyal BJP worker, sources said he may shift loyalty to Nitish Kumar's JD-U after the Bihar polls.