Lucknow: Former Rajya Sabha MP and senior journalist Shahid Siddiqui has joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) for the second time in a 24-year political career, in which he has been a part of all major parties in Uttar Pradesh barring the BJP.
Siddiqui joined the party on 7 June, with RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary welcoming him. “An established journalist and former Parliamentarian, Shahid Siddiqui is respected for his intellectual capacity, oratory & activism. We will work together to strengthen bhaichara,” Chaudhary had tweeted.
Happy to welcome Shri Shahid Siddiqui ji to @RLDparty. An established journalist and former Parliamentarian, @shahid_siddiqui is respected for his intellectual capacity, oratory & activism. We will work together to strengthen #bhaichara! pic.twitter.com/V3i8pQBqva
— Jayant Chaudhary (@jayantrld) June 7, 2021
An RLD functionary told ThePrint that Siddiqui will get an important role in the party. “It may be regarding coordination work as he has good equations with other parties,” the functionary said.
The functionary added that Siddiqui’s induction is part of the RLD’s efforts to strengthen Jat-Muslim unity in Western UP as this combination is a “game changer” in more than two dozen assembly seats.
“Apart from Siddiqui, former general secretary of the Bahujan Samaj Party Chaudhary Mohammed Islam also joined RLD on the same day,” the functionary said.
Began his career in the Congress
The 71-year-old Siddiqui is the chief editor of Nai Duniya, an Urdu weekly published from New Delhi.
He began his political career in the Congress and was appointed as the head of the party’s minority cell in 1997. He then joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) in 2002 as its national general secretary.
From 2002 to 2008, Siddiqui was a Rajya Sabha member from SP but he quit the party on 19 July 2008 and joined then arch rival, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). He resigned from the SP because he was not willing to vote in favour of the UPA during the trust vote on the nuclear deal.
“For the last one month, I have been feeling uneasy over the nuclear deal. I am of the opinion that it is not in the national interest. I have been opposing it for the last three years,” he had told the media with then UP Chief Minister Mayawati by his side after a meeting with her.
He was, however, expelled from the BSP on 14 December 2009 after speaking out against Mayawati. Siddiqui was expelled within hours of his interview with a national English daily where he sought to brand Mayawati as a despot. The report was headlined “Mayawati comes, speaks, goes, there’s no discussion”.
After his short stint with the BSP, he joined the RLD in April 2010, saying he backed then RLD chief Ajit Singh’s demand for the creation of a state of Harit Pradesh.
Prior to the 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, Siddiqui resigned from the RLD in protest against its alliance with the Congress. He returned to the SP.
Expulsion from Samajwadi Party
The Samajwadi Party formed the government in 2012 but soon after, it expelled Siddiqui in July of that year for interviewing then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The Nai Duniya interview ran into six pages and covered sensitive issues such as the state of Muslims in Gujarat and the post-Godhra riots, among others.
After his expulsion, Siddiqui said it was “curtailing the freedom of expression not only within the party but also freedom of press”.
A source close to Siddiqui told ThePrint that he stayed off politics for a while. “Siddiqui started focussing on his journalism work after this but he was very active on social media,” the aide said.
In April this year, he praised Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Twitter for helping him secure a Remdesivir injection.
Shrimati @priyankagandhi read my tweet for help and came forward to provide Remsidivier, which she had got for @RahulGandhi but didn’t require. I remain eternally grateful to Priyanka Ji for her humane gesture. She didn’t want me to but I had to publicly thank her.
— shahid siddiqui (@shahid_siddiqui) April 26, 2021
He has also praised Jayant Chaudhary a number of times before joining the party.
Since his induction into the RLD, Siddiqui tweeted that he joined the party to work for farmer rights.
“Joined @RLDparty today to strengthen the Kisan movement and for unity and progress in rural india,” he had tweeted. “Will work with Jayant Chaudhri Ji to fight for the rights of farmers & other marginalised sections of society in the country. Will work to strengthen RLD.”
Joined @RLDparty today to strengthen the Kisan movement and for unity and progress in rural india. Will work with Jayant Chaudhri Ji to fight for the rights of farmers & other marginalised sections of society in the country. Will work to strengthen RLD. pic.twitter.com/WSC15fiz77
— shahid siddiqui (@shahid_siddiqui) June 7, 2021
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)