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From Union Minister at 32 to Losing Sheen Since 2014 Polls: Star-Crossed Journey of BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain

News18 logo News18 19-08-2022 Pragya Kaushika
From Union Minister at 32 to Losing Sheen Since 2014 Polls: Star-Crossed Journey of BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain © Provided by News18 From Union Minister at 32 to Losing Sheen Since 2014 Polls: Star-Crossed Journey of BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain

An LK Advani loyalist who won his first Lok Sabha election in 1999 from Kishan Ganj — a Muslim-dominated seat — and went on to become the youngest Union minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet at the age of 32, BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain has seen more downs than ups in his political career — the latest being his exclusion from the BJP’s Central Election Committee on August 17.

The dip in Hussain’s career graph can be traced back to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when he lost from Bhagalpur. He was subsequently denied a ticket in the 2019 polls.

In 2014, Hussain was appointed the party’s national spokesperson, a post he continued to hold till 2021 when he was elected MLC and went on to become the industry minister in Bihar — a chance spot in national politics that did not return to him.

The former Union minister was asked by the BJP to contest the assembly elections in Bihar in 2015 but he refused. For Hussain, it seemed like a demotion — from a cabinet minister once to now being asked to contest the assembly polls. He was unwilling to shift base to Bihar from national politics but left with no choice, he finally agreed to take the plunge in 2021.

When Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, many senior leaders switched their loyalties from the Advani camp. However Hussain, sources in the party said, failed to make it to the inner circle of the group now in power. This is considered a key reason why his political graph did not see the rise it should have, given that he had a good start.

But this wasn’t the end of Hussain’s troubles. As Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar broke the alliance with BJP, Hussain could no longer continue as minister.

Industry minister for a few months

With the BJP unclear about where it could utilise him and when, it gave Hussain another chance in 2021 when he was made MLC and then sworn in as industry minister in Bihar where the BJP was in alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).

With Sushil Modi brought to the Centre and BJP looking to strengthen its organisation in Bihar, moving Hussain to the state seemed like a smart move. The party needed a leader of ‘national stature’ to deliver on governance and show the difference that the saffron party could bring in. Also, a message was sent across to Muslims by making Hussain a minister in the alliance government.

However, political misfortunes did not leave Hussain even when he reluctantly accepted the MLC post and became a minister in Nitish Kumar’s government. The alliance was short-lived as the chief minister accused the BJP of trying to pull a Maharashtra-like coup in Bihar. Kumar had alleged that the BJP tried to break the JD(U) by using RCP Singh, an allegation rubbished by the saffron party.

In one of his first reactions after the alliance broke, leading to the exit of BJP ministers from the government, Hussain said: “When I flew from Delhi, I was a minister, and when I landed, I was not.” As industry minister, Hussain had been working hard to bring in investments in the state that could have led to employment generation.

Part of BJP CEC for 17 years

On August 17, Hussain — who had been a member of the Central Election Committee that now has 15 members, including the prime minister — was removed. He was the only minority face in the committee. The party, with an eye on Punjab, gave the position to Iqbal Singh Lalpura, a Sikh leader.

Hussain had been in the committee for 17 long years. In 2019, he was part of the committee that denied him a ticket for Lok Sabha polls. He blamed once-colleague-turned-rival Nitish Kumar for the blow as the seat went in the JD(U)’s quota.

Sources in the BJP said Hussain was informed by national president JP Nadda about the list that accommodated ‘new ones’ in the committee this time.

Meanwhile, there are also talks that the BJP is likely to use Hussain extensively in Bihar post its split with Nitish Kumar. The saffron party, which has accused Kumar of ‘backstabbing’, is confident of sweeping the 2025 assembly elections in the state on its own.

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