Patna: Sushant Singh Rajput has quietly disappeared from the election scene in Bihar. Let aside his suicide becoming a poll issue, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is not even mentioning his name in any election rally.
The Bihar-born Bollywood actor had committed suicide at his Bandra flat in Mumbai in June this year. Apparently, finding in it a god-sent “opportunity” to distract the attention of the masses from the two burning issues of “massive job losses caused lockdown and large-scale migration”, the BJP went all out to make it an election issue, linking it with the pride of Bihar.
The BJP’s game-plan could be underlined from the fact that the very first poster issued by the party was related to Sushant’s suicide. In September when the clouds of uncertainty still hung over Bihar elections in view of COVID-19 pandemic, BJP’s cultural cell released posters, stickers and masks with the photo of the actor containing the message, “Na bhule hain, na bhulne denge (We have neither forgotten nor will we let anyone forget).” Very strangely, the BJP itself has forgotten the actor.
What apparently came as a dampener for the party was the report of the All India Institute of Medical Science’s medical board which said the actor indeed had committed suicide. “It is a case of hanging and death by suicide. We have submitted our conclusive report to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” was how AIIMS’s forensic chief Dr. Sudhir Gupta told the media on October 3, a week after the Election Commission of India had announced the date for polling in Bihar. In its conclusive medico-legal opinion to the CBI, the six-member team of forensic doctors even dismissed the claims of “poisoning and strangling”. The report virtually took the winds out of BJP’s sails, prompting the saffron camp to bury the issue before it could boomerang.
“The BJP would have been left in an embarrassing situation had it still questioned the CBI investigation and tried to make the Sushant case an issue. After all, it was the Narendra Modi government which handed over the case to the CBI. So, the BJP was just forced to drop the issue,” commented a political expert wishing not to be named.
According to experts, the BJP wanted to make it an election issue for two reasons. Firstly, Sushant, the promising Patna-born young actor whose life got cut short midway, had huge fans following across various castes and communities who loved his acting skills. And, the second reason was the social background of the actor who came from a powerful Rajput caste.
Exploit the issue
Of the total 19 per cent population of upper castes in Bihar, Rajputs lead the group with 6.5 per cent, followed by Bhumihar and Brahmins, both having 5.5 per cent population each, and Kayashtha whose share is 1.5 per cent in the population. Although most of the upper castes continue to support the BJP, Rajputs have been divided. They have never supported the BJP wholeheartedly. Apparently, that was the reason why the party wanted to exploit the issue.
The political significance of this case can be underlined from the fact that although the actor had committed suicide in Mumbai, the case was registered in Patna on July 25—well over a month after the suicide incident. This was followed by two quick developments: Firstly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who heads the NDA government in the state recommended for a CBI probe into the suicide and, secondly, the Indian government quickly accepted the recommendation.
Even as the CBI began investigation, the media tried to analyse it from various angles. One angle was that of “nepotism” as raised by actress Kangana Ranaut. “Nepotism debate is a different angle completely,” actor’s family lawyer Vikas Singh had told Zoom TV. “...May be an actors’ association or producers association can take up this matter but I don’ think that this case has anything to do with what Kangana (Ranaut) has suggested or anybody talking about,” he added.