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What to make of ex-Union minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain’s shift from Centre to Bihar

The announcement means the BJP leader's return to electoral politics, from Centre to the state though, since 2014 when he lost the Lok Sabha election from Bhagalpur in Bihar.

January 18, 2021 / 01:23 PM IST
Syed Shahnawaz Hussian, BJP leader (PTI)

Syed Shahnawaz Hussian, BJP leader (PTI)


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on January 16 named Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, former Union minister and its national spokesperson, as its candidate for Bihar legislative council.

The announcement means Hussain’s return to electoral politics, from Centre to thāe state though, since 2014 when he lost the Lok Sabha election from Bhagalpur.

Experts read two possible reasons behind the move: Either it marks Shahnawaz Hussain’s resurrection after years of political wilderness, or he is being shunted out of Delhi.

Youngest Union Cabinet Minister

Born in 1968 in Bihar’s Samastipur district, Hussain was All India Secretary of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, BJP's youth wing, while in college. In 1999, Hussain won the Lok Sabha election on a BJP ticket from Muslim-dominated Kishanganj constituency of Bihar. He was appointed Minister of State and held various portfolios including food processing industries, youth affairs and sports and human resource development. In September 2001, he was elevated to the rank of a Cabinet minister with Civil Aviation portfolio in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and became the youngest Union cabinet minister ever at 32.

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Hussain lost the 2004 general elections, but made his way to the Lok Sabha again in November 2006 in the by-election when he won the vacant Bhagalpur constituency in Bihar. He won from Bhagalpur again in 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

On the margins

In 2014, however, Hussain lost from Bhagalpur seat by a narrow margin. He found himself on the margins in BJP when he was denied ticket to the Bhagalpur seat in 2019. The seat went to JD (U), part of the National Democratic Alliance, in 2019.

In the subsequent years, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi became the Muslim face of the Narendra Modi government. Hussain wasn’t considered even for the Rajya Sabha nominations, yet he continued putting forth party’s view points as a spokesperson and participated in campaigns. Recently, he camped in the Kashmir valley ahead of the e District Development Council (DDC) polls. The BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the polls by bagging 75 seats, of which 72 were in Jammu division.

Muslim face in Nitish cabinet?

Hussain has shifted to Bihar state three months after refusing to contest the assembly elections in his home state. Contesting assembly election would certainly be a demotion for a former union minister. “But, then does he have a choice?” asks a leader.

Many reports said Hussain might as well be inducted into the Nitish Kumar cabinet and thus become the sole Muslim face in the council of ministers. While BJP had not fielded any Muslim candidate, all eleven Muslim candidates of JD (U) lost.

Given the numbers for the BJP is the Bihar assembly, Hussain’s election in the council is a formality before his expected formal entry into the Nitish Kumar-led state government. The term for the two seats vacated by the BJP leaders Sushil Kumar Modi and Vinod Narayan Jha will be completed on July 21, 2022.

Hussain is very likely to work in the cabinet of Nitish Kumar, with whom he has not had good relations, especially after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when he blamed the Bihar CM for not being allowed to contest from Bhagalpur. If he becomes a minister, Bihar will be the only BJP-ruled state after Uttar Pradesh to have a Muslim face in the council of ministers.

In the elections to 243 assembly constituencies held last year, NDA secured a majority with 125 seats - 74 won by the BJP and 43 by the JD (U).
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based out of New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.

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