From being the youngest Cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government once, to an eloquent party spokesperson and member of parliament (MP) now, Bharatiya Janata Party's prominent Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain has come a long way in the Indian politics. The 46-year-old is now all set for an electoral fight in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, hoping the voters of Bhagalpur will send him to Parliament third time in a row. Bhagalpur will go to polls on April 24.
Shahnawaz was elected as MP in October 1999 at a young age of 30 and was sworn in as the minister of state for food processing and industries. His career, meanwhile, saw a meteoric rise in the subsequent years as he rose to the rank of a cabinet minister within two years. He was sworn in as union minister for civil aviation in September 2001, thereby becoming the youngest cabinet minister.
Given the significance of the Bhagalpur seat for the BJP (the party won four out of the five Lok Sabha elections in the last 16 years), the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed a rally recently. Narendra Modi enthralled the crowd by his diatribe against both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, referring to the revelations made in the recently published book 'Accidental PM' by Sanjaya Baru.
Bhagalpur has a total population of 32 lakh, out of which at least 19 lakh are registered voters and it constitutes six assembly seats. Even though Shahnawaz had lost the 2004 general elections from the seat, he made an entry to the Lok Sabha when he won a by-election from the same seat in 2006. In 2009, Shahnawaz had defeated Rashtriya Janata Dal's Shakuni Choudhary by 55,000 votes.
This time around, Shahnawaz is banking on alliance with Lok Janshakti Party for a hatrick. There are about 12 per cent dalit votes in the constituency.