Lucknow: The former BSP MLA from Faizabad (now Ayodhya), Jitendra Singh Bablu, joined the BJP Wednesday, but his induction has sparked a controversy.
Bablu is the main accused in an arson case, in which the residence of the BJP MP from Prayagraj, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, was burnt down in 2009.
Soon after he joined, Joshi put out a video statement, accusing Bablu of “hiding facts”.
“In 2009, when I was in the Congress, this guy (Jitendra Singh Bablu) was involved in setting ablaze my house on Sarojini Naidu Marg in Lucknow. Every media house has covered that story,” she alleged. “During the investigation, police also found several pieces of evidence against him. I think he has now hidden these facts from the state BJP high command and joined the party.”
“I will now talk to J.P. Nadda, our party president, and Swatantra Dev Singh (state BJP president). I will request them to cancel his primary membership,” she added.
Bablu main accused of burning house
In 2009, Joshi was the Congress’s state president in Uttar Pradesh when her house was set ablaze, days after her party protested against the then BSP government.
At the time, Bablu was an MLA from Bikapur in Faizabad (now Ayodhya). In 2011, he was arrested in the case but later secured bail.
Joshi has received support from several UP BJP leaders who have questioned Bablu’s induction.
One BJP functionary told ThePrint that Bablu had been trying to join the BJP for the past four years.
In fact, in 2017, the former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader and a huge entourage had driven down to the BJP UP headquarters in Lucknow to join the ruling party.
“The news of Bablu looking to join the BJP spread like wildfire in party circles. Our then MLA from Bikapur seat, the then district president of Ayodhya, and Rita Bahuguna Joshi immediately contacted UP BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh on the phone and lodged a strong protest. His joining got cancelled in this way,” the functionary said.
Another functionary also opposed the joining, saying it is ironic that at a time Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has launched an anti-mafia operation across the state, some leaders “are hell-bent on inducting tainted politicians into the party”.
“This will hurt our party organisation as well as the government’s narrative,” he said.
BJP state president Swatantra Dev, however, said all those who joined the party Wednesday had done so because they were impressed with the BJP government.
“They all joined after getting impressed with the work of the BJP governments at the Centre and the state. They will promote the work done by the Modi and Yogi governments in their respective areas,” he told media at the induction ceremony.
Along with Bablu, former Congress state president Pankaj Sonkar and the BSP leader from Raebareli, Pravesh Singh, also joined the BJP Wednesday.
ThePrint reached Swatantra Dev and Bablu via phone calls for a comment. While Dev didn’t answer, Bablu’s phone remained switched off till the time of publishing this report.
Opposition questions joining
Opposition parties too questioned the BJP accommodating Bablu.
Samajwadi Party MLC Sunil Singh Sajan told ThePrint that this showed the BJP’s ‘zero-tolerance against crime’ policy is actually a ‘jumla (lie)’.
“Now an accused who was involved in setting ablaze BJP MP Rita Joshi’s house is getting pavitr (purified) by diving into the BJP’s pap-nashak (destroyer of evil) Ganga,” Sajan said. “Actually, the BJP knows that it is going to lose these elections, and that’s why they are inducting history sheeters into their party.”
Congress UP Chief Ajay Lallu also accused the BJP “of accommodating criminals”.
“The BJP has a habit of promoting people like Chinmayanand and Sengar,” Lallu said. “Now they have inducted another history-sheeter in Bablu. This shows the truth of this party.”
UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi, however, said Bablu has not been convicted of any crime. “There is no space for criminals in the BJP. If he (Bablu) is proven guilty of doing crimes, then the party will definitely take action,” Tripathi said.
As for Rita Joshi’s statement, Tripathi said the “party high command will take a decision on it”.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)