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Shotgun back in limelight with Asansol LS bypoll victory for TMC

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Kolkata, April 16: Three years after his parliamentary poll defeat in home state Bihar, actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha emerged triumphant on Saturday in neighbouring West Bengal's Asansol Lok Sabha bypoll, quashing the "outsider" tag accorded to him by the opposition BJP.

Shatrughan Sinha

Sinha (76) also helped the state's ruling party break jinx in the Lok Sabha seat, where it did not taste success so far, having registered victory by a margin of 3,03,209 votes.

The former Union minister garnered a massive 6,56,358 votes against BJP candidate Agnimitra Paul's 3,53,149, according to the Election Commission website.

The victory will not just pave way for Sinha to come out of the political wilderness that he had entered into following his defeat at Patna Sahib in 2019 Lok Sabha polls but also give the TMC an opportunity to distance itself from the 'Bengali sub-nationalism' plank, which is apparently proving to be a hindrance to its pan-India expansion plans.

Popularly called 'Shotgun' by fans for his straightforward dialogue deliveries in films, Sinha, who joined the TMC after his four-decade-long stint in BJP and a brief innings in Congress, had vowed to work for the development of people in the industrial town during his campaigns.

"I am no less a Bengali than any other Bengali. I am not an outsider. I have always adored the Bengali language and Bengali culture. Today's results are a testimony to it. I will work for the development of people," Sinha, known for his signature dialogue 'khamosh', told reporters.

Born in Patna in 1946, the popular Bollywood actor had joined the BJP in the late 80s when it was a party of two MPs and served as its star campaigner during the Vajpayee-Advani era.

Sinha made his electoral debut with a loss in the 1992 bypoll from the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency as another movie star and Congress candidate Rajesh Khanna pocketed the seat.

Despite the loss, he continued to grow as a leader in the saffron camp due to his perceived proximity to party veterans Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani.

Sinha had been a Rajya Sabha MP for 12 years and a member of the Lok Sabha for 10 years, all as part of the BJP, the party he had once called his "first and last choice".

He was a union minister during Vajpayee's tenure as the prime minister, holding important portfolios such as shipping and health & family welfare.

After the BJP stormed to power in 2014, however, Sinha was not given a place in the Narendra Modi cabinet. Aggrieved, he had fired frequent salvos against the leadership for allegedly sidelining the old guards.

The two-term Lok Sabha MP from Patna Sahib walked out of the BJP in 2019 and joined the Congress. He lost to saffron party's Ravi Shankar Prasad in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

The 'Bihari babu', as he is often referred to, had also taken part in TMC boss Mamata Banerjee's mega anti-BJP conclave at Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, just before the elections.

With this victory in Asansol as a TMC candidate, Sinha is expected to give the party's national expansion plans a boost ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

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