Patna: Two of the most well-known BJP faces in Bihar, Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudi, are missing from the 30-member list of star campaigners that the party has released for the assembly elections in the state.
Both these leaders were ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and were first-time MPs of the Lok Sabha in 1999.
Hussain and Rudy, however, were not on the list Sunday even as leaders who joined the party after 2014 such as MPs Ram Kripal Yadav, Sushil Singh and Chhedi Paswan
joined elite campaigners, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J.P. Nadda. In all, 30 leaders are on the star campaigners’ list.
Rudy, however, downplayed his omission, saying this was only the first list for the three-phase election. “This is not an issue and I have not been cut down to size. I am still the national spokesperson of the party,” the MP from Saran told ThePrint. “This was the list for the first phase of elections. My area falls in the second phase. The star campaigners list keeps changing phase-wise.”
ThePrint contacted Shahnawaz Hussain but the calls went unanswered.
The BJP is also trying to play down the omission. “Both these leaders are playing a role in our campaign. They are members of the campaign management committee headed by Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad,” BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel told The Print. “Besides, not being on the list of star campaigners does not mean that they will not campaign. The party may ask them to campaign if needed.”
‘Party had other options’
Sources in the BJP said there are several other leaders from the Rajput community that Rudy belongs to. They include Radha Mohan Singh, Sushil Singh and Union Minister R.K. Singh, all of whom are on the list.
Sources also said that Shahnawaz earlier figured in the BJP’s plans as it wanted a Muslim face to decrease the hostility from the Muslim population. “Now with Nitish Kumar as our CM face, the aggressiveness of Muslims towards the NDA will be less,” a senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity.
Shahnawaz and Rudy had earlier been sought after campaigners for the party.
Shahnawaz first won from the Muslim-dominated Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat in 1999 but lost from here in the 2004 polls.
He, however, returned to Parliament in a bypoll at Bhagalpur, a constituency with a sizeable Muslim population, in 2006. He retained the seat in the 2009 Parliamentary elections.
During the pre-2013 alliance with JD(U), Shahnawaz was the most sought after BJP leader whenever the two parties held joint rallies.
Sharad Yadav, the then convenor of the NDA, preferred Shahnawaz to Shatrughan Sinha. After 2014, however, his political career has gone downhill. He lost despite the Modi wave in 2014 and didn’t contest in 2019. He has also not been accommodated in the Rajya Sabha.
Sources in the BJP say he was offered the Bhagalpur town assembly constituency ticket for these polls but turned down the offer.
Rudy is the sitting MP from the Saran Parliamentary seat, which was considered a fiefdom of Lalu Prasad Yadav. He had defeated Rabri Devi in 2014 and Chandrika Rai, the estranged in-laws of Lalu’s son Tej Pratap Yadav.
Rudy was a union minister in Modi 1.0, heading the ambitious skill development programme but was dropped mid-way. He has never been able to regain favour in the BJP since.