This contest is interesting for all students of political science and electoral politics.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) challenged former film actor and three-time MP Shatrughan Sinha (Cong) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and won the prestigious Patna Sahib seat. RS Prasad received 6.07,506 votes representing a 61.85 percent vote share while Shatrughan Sinha got 3,22,849 votes representing a 32.87 percent vote share. The margin of defeat was 2,84,657 votes. That’s a massive margin of defeat for a three-time sitting MP.
How did Shatrughan Sinha lose the Patna Sahib seat?
Let’s examine the factors that impacted the outcome:
His celebrity status and track record
Shatrughan Sinha completed his studies from Patna Science College and later studied at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. He then went on to become a successful Bollywood actor.
From the beginning, he has had an avid interest in politics and in 1996 was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a BJP ticket. He served as the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare from July 2002 to January 2003. And as Union Minister for Shipping from January 2003 to May 2004 in the Vajpayee government.
His electoral performance from Patna Sahib.
In 2009, Shatrughan Sinha (BJP) contested and won the Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seat defeating Vijay Kumar (RJD). Sinha received 3,16,549 votes (57.30%) against Kumar’s 1,49,779 votes (27.11%). Another film and TV actor Shekhar Suman (INC) came in the third position, receiving 61,308 votes (11.10%).
In 2014, Shatrughan Sinha (BJP) again won the seat defeating Kunal Singh (INC). Sinha received 4,85,905 votes (55.04%) against Singh’s 2,20,100 votes (24.93%). Dr Gopal Prasad Sinha JD(U) received the third highest 91,024 votes(10.31%).
In 2019, Shatrughan Sinha (INC) lost the seat receiving 3,22,849 votes (32.87%) against Ravi Shankar Prasad’s (BJP) 6,07,506 votes (61.85%).
Shatrughan Sinha won a high vote share of 57.30 percent in 2009 which marginally dropped to 55.04 percent in 2014. He improved his vote tally by 1,69,356 votes. It’s the year when BJP swept the elections riding on a massive anti-UPA II wave.
In 2019, Shatrughan Sinha was refused the Patna Sahib seat due to his anti-party, anti-Modi comments. He switched over to the Congress which offered him the Patna Sahib ticket.
A close look at the vote tally in 2019 shows Shatrughan Sinha received almost the same number of votes he won in 2009, a marginal gain of 6,300 votes. However, his vote share dropped significantly from 57.30 percent in 2009 to 32.87 percent.
His change of party
This is the biggest contributing factor in Shatrughan Sinha’s defeat. It brings out the debate between the draw of an individual and a party. Sometimes, if the candidate is a popular celebrity, the additional votes contribute to the winning difference. But without a strong party of loyal supporters, the celebrity can only do so much.
Shatrughan Sinha made the cardinal mistake of assuming his celebrity status as a politician was equal to or more than that of the actor. In other words, he believed he had outgrown the BJP as a politician and could win an election without it. The result in 2019 has proved him wrong, as he could not bring in the votes. His vote share dropped from 55.04 percent in 2014 to 32.87 percent in 2019.
JD(U) voters who have a large presence in the city voted against Shatrughan Sinha.
The perception among voters before and after his shift
He has been very popular among people and the party (BJP). Patna has been a BJP stronghold since the late 90s. Caste is a big factor in Bihar’s electoral politics, and Shatrughan Sinha was well accepted among his caste as also among other castes. These voters loyally voted for him and the party, from 2009 to 2014. His change over to the Congress has not gone down well with his supporters, many of whom felt betrayed. A large section of these voters voted for Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP).
Congress cadres versus BJP cadres
BJP has always maintained a disciplined cadre-based network. It has had the advantage of RSS supporters, disciplined and committed, lending a helping hand to the BJP whenever needed.
In 2008, the Patna seat was split into Patliputra and Patna Sahib. Barring 1984, the Congress has never won the seat after 1962. With no grassroots network, Shatrughan Sinha managing to win 3,22,849 votes against Ravi Shankar Prasad’s 6,07,506 votes, is good but not good enough.
The credit goes to the party’s strong cadre network, along with Ravi Shankar Prasad’s work in the centre, that nailed Shatrughan Sinha’s fate in Patna Sahib.
Lastly, the most important factor in the 2019 elections has been PM Modi’s towering persona, which overshadowed the individual candidate’s personality and performance. It’s because of the Modi factor that several first-time candidates with no political experience or political knowledge have won with significant margins. Film actor Sunny Deol’s victory in Gurdaspur is a good case in point.