Veteran actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who is a part of the "non-political" platform Rashtra Manch -- aimed at raising issues concerning the Narendra Modi government -- says he feels free now as he felt "stifled" by the stepson like treatment by the BJP.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. It's party time. When and how did the Rashtra Manch happen?
A. It was an idea floating in some of our restless heads for a while. You know how hard it is for me to keep a secret (laughs). Special mention must be made of individuals like Ghanshyam Tiwari and K.C. Singh who made this possible. But I had to keep the plans under wraps until we actually launched the Rashtra Manch. And now here we are.
Q. How does it feel?
A. To have a forum, a platform where I can express myself and most importantly, be able to work towards bettering the country, is extremely liberating. I can't tell you how free I feel. Khuli hawaa mein saans lene ka mazaa hi kuch aur hai (the thrill of breathing in the open air is something else).
Q. But your parent party the BJP never stopped you from speaking?
A. They never allowed me to do anything other than speak. I seemed to serve no purpose beyond being an outspoken member of my parent party. I felt my parent party was giving me the treatment given to a stepson. Quite honestly I felt stifled. Yashwant Sinhaji is someone I've respected and been associated with for a long time. When he came up with this idea of a non-political forum, I was completely for it. You see, we are not a breakaway party. We are not rebelling from our parent party. We are not fence crossers.
Q. So what is the purpose of the Rashtra Manch?
A. Let me first tell you what is not its purpose. We are not fighting any election in the Rashtra Manch. So in that sense we are not a political party. Our motive for coming together is to bring real change and reform in the social order. I am not just talking about lip service. But real changes.
Q. Like what?
A. Like addressing the financial issues, looking into the needs of the poor. We will be addressing farmers' suicide, unemployment, internal security and external security. I feel too much attention is being focused on irrelevant issues to digress attention from actual problems. A case in point is the "Padmaavat" controversy. It was highly unnecessary and totally uncalled for.
Q. Would you be allowed to address real issues?
A. Why would we not be allowed? Doesn't our honourable Prime Minister, the country's biggest and strongest action hero Narendra Modiji want changes and reform to happen? We've floated this party to strengthen his hands, just as Jaiprakash Narain and V.P. Singh had floated a party while being a part of the RSS.
Q. Are you confident that your new party would be able to make a difference?
A. We have our hearts and goals in the right place. We have like-minded people in the party. Political optimists like Pavan Varma, Dinesh Tiwary, Renuka Chowdhary, Som Pal are with us. We feel empowered and hopeful.
Q. But the Telangana BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao has accused you and Yashwant Sinha of crossing all limits?
A. Iss saagar (ocean) may kitni gehrayee hai yeh toh sabko maloom hai (Everyone knows how deep this ocean runs).