Sushant case taking centre stage in Bihar elections.

By Arvind Das

Sep 16, 2020

Patna: Sushant Singh is no more. His girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty is in jail on trumped-up charges. Media bosses are jubilant seeing their surging TRPs. Sushant, in his death, has become a politically hot-button issue in Bihar. BJP has been whipping up passions in the state, which is slated to go for elections in a month.

The BJP in Bihar has distributed posters of Sushant Singh Rajput with a slogan on it: Na bhoolein hain, na bhoolenge (we haven’t forgotten; we won’t forget). Sushant, a Bihari boy, is definitely going to strike an emotional chord with the voters. And in caste-ridden Bihar, the Thakur voters are unlikely to ignore the Rajput tag in Sushant’s name.

BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal says his party isn’t making Sushant an election issue. “But it is definitely an emotional issue. With Mumbai Police not doing its investigation in a proper manner, we wanted the CBI to probe so that justice is done. And there is drug angle to it. We are very happy that the agencies have started the probe and they are bound to take it to its logical conclusion.”

Actually, it wasn’t the BJP but RJD which was the first political party to demand a CBI probe. Jailed party supremo Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav was the first political bigwig in Bihar to show his anger and dissatisfaction over the tardy probe.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, too, jumped on to the bandwagon. In his virtual rally, he raised the issue of Sushant’s death. The alacrity with which he recommended a CBI probe and the speed at which the Centre accepted his demand is amazing. Very rarely governments in the past have acted so proactively.

On Nitish’s prodding, the Bihar Police registered an FIR and immediately sent a team to Mumbai. The narcotics bureau and the ED have also joined the probe looking into drug and money-laundering charges.
Rhea, Sushant’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has been arrested and sent to jail.

Political pundits are wondering why all political parties, especially the BJP-JDU combine, are keen to make Sushant an election issue. A bit of backstory on the political situation in Bihar is necessary at this point.

After Lalu’s departure from power, Bihar politics has witnessed a marked change from aggressive and at times crude provincial drama to nuanced yet hollow theatre. In Nitish regime, everything is going for a toss and pundits have begun to say that, in terms of optics, this innings of Nitish is no better than Lalu’s.

Nitish had promised to provide Sushashan, that is clean and good governance. In his first term, he did provide a modicum of governance, and crime and lumpenism took a hit.

But in his current term, Bihar is back to square one, exactly at the point when Nitish took over from Lalu. Kidnappings and other crimes, for which Bihar has been notorious, have started gaining momentum again.

The coronavirus crisis has also exposed the Bihar government’s abysmal lack of preparedness to tackle any health emergency. The migrant issue is also on everyone’s lips. There were delays in coronavirus testing and the government took a long time in earmarking hospitals for the testing. Two health secrataries were changed during the crisis.

The botched return of migrants and the shoddy health infrastructure led to an alarming increase in the disease. This sparked an uproar and the Nitish government could not defend its ill-conceived steps.

With elections likely in November, the Sushant case has been lapped up by political parties. The break-up in the Shiv Sena and the BJP in Maharashtra has also altered political equations. With Uddhav Thackeray becoming chief minister with the support of the Congress, the BJP, to needle the Shiv Sena boss, hyped up the case to boost its fortune in Bihar.

According to analysts, Sushant is an emotive issue and such factors have always helped the BJP.

In the past too, the BJP has used emotive issues to come in poll contention. The party, when in power, is also a master at using the power of these issues to deflect attention from any kind of crisis.

And India is now facing a slew of crises. The economy is tanking and GDP has contracted and millions of unorganised workers have lost their jobs. Border problems with China are also continuing and the government has not made any headway either through diplomatic or military channels in defusing these tensions.

The Sushant case will also come in handy for the Nitish-BJP combine in garnering upper-caste votes. The storty of a small-town Bihari boy making it big in Bollywood and then being dragged down from his starry pedestal by the film mafia to his death will resonate in the state and attract votes for the ruling combine.

Some news channels, known to be close to the ruling combine, are also airing cooked-up stories to shape the narrative.