Shatrughan Sinha, whose quiet switch from the Congress to Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress was revealed recently when he was named as the party's candidate for by-polls in Bengal, said today that poll strategist Prashant Kishor first reached out to him and played a key role in his crossover.
"It was a big honour and opportunity for me to join Mamata Banerjee. Her party wanted me, she tweeted that I should be in the Trinamool and fight from the Asansol parliamentary seat. My elder brother Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Kishor played a very crucial role," Shatrughan Sinha told NDTV.
"Prashant Kishor reached out to me. We had a hearty chat, a long chat and discussed so many issues. He wanted me to come to the Trinamool."
Often, he added, "you have to take the wrong paths to end up in the right place".
Prashant Kishor, who was drafted by Mamata Banerjee for her Bengal election campaign, continues to work with her party even after its giant victory last year.
In recent months, he has been instrumental in recruiting veterans from rival parties, mainly the Congress, for the Trinamool. He has also held talks centred on Mamata Banerjee as the possible pivot of an opposition coalition to take on the BJP in the 2024 national election.
Asked whether he saw Mamata Banerjee as a Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr Sinha said: "I believe Mamata Banerjee is certainly fit to be the leader of the nation. She is a mass leader in the true sense. She's the only leader who commands respect. She has capability and capacity. She is tried, tested and successful. She comes from Bengal, but so what? Our Prime Minister is from Gujarat."
He praised Mamata Banerjee's big win in Bengal, pitted against the BJP's might and outsized election machinery.
"The way she took them on – hats off. Right from the wheelchair and khela hobe (game on, the Trinamool's slogan) she has shown what is khela (game) and how it is played. She fought against all the money power and propaganda. The way she took on the BJP and her friends in the BJP, hats off to her," said the actor-politician who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government.
Mr Sinha, who quit the BJP and joined the Congress just before the 2019 election, refused to elaborate on why he changed parties again.
"There were so many things. I don't want to criticise the Congress at its time of crisis. At the moment, I won't talk about the Congress at all. I have tremendous regard for Congress leaders, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi. I have great regard for Sonia Gandhi. I have no complaints with Rahul Gandhi. But there are people I'd rather not talk about. I don't want to talk about them," he said.
On why as a Bihar leader, he agreed to contest from Bengal's Asansol, he said: "I am an all-India figure apart from being a Bihari babu. What would you tell Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he contests from Varanasi? He doesn't even know the Varanasi dialect. At least I know Bengali."
He insisted that the Trinamool is his last destination.
"There is no scope of straying from the TMC. I am with Mamata didi, I will remain with her. Thus far and no further," he said, obliging NDTV with his trademark movie one-liner "Khamosh!"