'Atal Bihari Vajpayee Dubbed My Husband Vikas Purush': Hena Shahab

The election this time is historic for both Siwan and Hena Shahab, the wife of Mohammad Shahabuddin, because for the first time in the last 40 years, a member of Siwan's biggest political family is in the electoral fray independent of Lalu Yadav and the RJD

Suresh K Pandey/Outlook
Hena Shahab, wife of Shahabuddin Photo: Suresh K Pandey/Outlook

Hena Shahab was the only woman in her college to attend classes wearing a veil. She completed her post graduation and then got married, but right from the days of school through college and later in the political arena, her veil always stayed on. Now at the age of 46, she has been marching through the streets of Siwan in the same veil, now accompanied by hundreds of saffron-clad and tilak-sporting supporters.

Shahab is the wife of Mohammad Shahabuddin, a notorious gangster of the nineties. This is her fourth time contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Siwan in his absence. Shahabuddin was elected MP from Siwan four times in a row, but after his conviction, Shahab lost the same elections thrice in a row. The election this time is historic for both Siwan and Shahab, because for the first time in the last 40 years, a member of Siwan's biggest political family is in the electoral fray independently of Lalu Prasad Yadav and his party, Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Siwan is prominent among the eight constituencies of Bihar that are slated to go to polls in the sixth phase of the general elections on May 25. Shahab filed her nomination on April 29. Hena Shahab in conversation with Md Asghar Khan.

During your nomination and election campaign, you have been surrounded by saffron and tilak-sporting supporters. It would seem as though wearers of saffron and tilak are fighting on behalf of a veiled woman.

No, no, it is not about veiled women and tilak-wearers. It is the culture of the country that people of all religions coexist. There is no conflict here. We are for social service and have always been for social service.

Your husband Shahabuddin was a four-time MP from Rashtriya Janata Dal and you also contested elections three times in a row from the same party. What happened this time to break that 40-year-old tradition? Why are you not contesting from the RJD, but independently?

There is no such thing. This time the people of Siwan demanded that I contest independently. That is why I am here as an independent nominee.

Do you think that contesting the election independently will fetch you more votes? 

We feel that by contesting elections separately, we avoid the carping and cavilling of party politics. 

In your view, what is the roadmap for the development of Siwan? What will you do for this area if you win?

I will do a lot. There are so many problems in Siwan. I will go among the people and find out about their small and big problems and solve them.

Your husband Shahabuddin was tagged as a gangster. Did you ever feel uncomfortable with this tag during your election campaign?

You may not know this, but in 2005, our former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dubbed him Vikas Purush. He was not a gangster; he was Vikas Purush.

How confident are you about your chances of victory?

People of all castes, classes, and religions are with us. All the colours of Siwan are ours. We have no fight with anyone. It is not I who is contesting the election; rather it is the people of Siwan who are fighting for me.

(Translated by Kaushika Draavid)