New Delhi: Disgruntled former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kripal Parmar’s decision to contest from Fatehpur constituency has not only laid bare rebellion in the party’s ranks in Himachal Pradesh over poll tickets but seemingly forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach out to him as well.
A former Rajya Sabha MP, Parmar is among the 17-plus BJP rebels who plan to contest as Independents after not getting poll tickets. BJP chief J.P. Nadda, who hails from Himachal, has been trying to dissuade the rebels to not contest against party candidates.
Parmar told ThePrint that he was not ready to fight the election but changed his mind when forest minister Rakesh Pathania “abused” him over the phone. “I have communicated this to Nadda ji but he didn’t do anything. I was seeking a ticket for so long. I was denied in 2012, and lost in 2017 by only 1,200 votes. A rebel was fielded to defeat me,” he claimed, adding that the BJP lost five seats to “internal sabotage”.
Expelled from the BJP last week, Parmar was a Rajya Sabha member from Himachal between 2000 and 2006, and the state BJP vice-president.
On Saturday, a video of Parmar went viral in which he purportedly speaks to a person whom he addresses as “Modi” and complains against Nadda for “destroying” his political career.
In the video clip, the person on the other side of the phone is heard saying: “I will not listen to anything, get out of the election”. Parmar goes on to acknowledge the influence of the caller. “You are like my god. This is like a direction from god, but if this call happened two days ago, it would have been better,” Parmar says.
Himachal will go to polls on 12 November. The last date for filing nominations was 25 October and the last date of withdrawal was 29 October.
Soon after the video went viral, the Congress said that the clip shows the BJP’s “desperation” and that this is the reason why the PM himself is making calls to the BJP rebels to not spoil chances of official candidates.
“I was hoping the party would give me a ticket in the 2021 bypoll when Congress MLA Sujan Singh died, but instead Nadda ji conspired against me. CM Jairam Thakur arrived in a helicopter to take me to Shimla and they assured me of a ticket in the state elections,” he said.
“But at the time of ticket distribution, Pathania’s seat was changed and shifted as he has deep pockets and business interests. My candidature was ignored. I have communicated this entire episode, but Nadda ji ensured the PM was kept in the dark,” he told ThePrint.
Pathania was shifted from Nurpur to Fatehpur by the BJP brass as he was facing anti-incumbency.
Parmar conceded that he had got a poll ticket five years ago because of Modi’s “intervention”. His detractors in the party, the BJP rebel claimed, conspired to create a situation where he was refused candidacy this year.
“When the PM’s call came after the withdrawal date had passed, I said ‘Modi ji, if you had made the call earlier, it would have been possible. You are god to me, but now it’s late’,” he told ThePrint.
The BJP now fears Fatehpur is slipping out of its hands as the “fight is between me and Pathania,” he said.
“The BJP should back me and deploy resources for my win as I am a leader who emerged from cadres…Agar mera ghar jalega, toh auro ke ghar bhi jalenge (if my house is ablaze, others’ homes will burn too),” he told ThePrint.
BJP spokesperson Mahender Dharmani played down the reports of PM Modi purportedly calling up Parmar. “It shows how every party worker is serious about polls, whether it’s state or panchayat elections. The prime minister himself appealed to rebels, unlike in the Congress where Rahul Gandhi has no time to campaign for the party. A divided Congress is fighting without a leader and a captain,” he told ThePrint.
Also Read: Why carrots & sticks aren’t stopping BJP leaders going rogue as Independents in Himachal polls
“They ensured my defeat by putting in a rebel candidate [Baldev Thakur] against me [in 2017]. In the 2021 bypoll, they gave the ticket to that same candidate, denying me the nomination. The party lobbied to isolate me,” Parmar said.
“A Youth Morcha secretary was encouraged to file a frivolous case against me. Later, he was promoted as vice-president in the morcha,” he claimed.
The BJP won from Fatehpur in last year’s panchayat polls but the party leadership in its report to the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) mentioned that he did not work for the victory, he alleged. “It was a one-sided report… How much humiliation can I suffer?”
Parmar had resigned in November last year after he was denied ticket for the Fatehpur bypoll. He had told ThePrint back then that he had suffered “harassment and humiliation” in the BJP.
BJP grapples with rebels
On 31 October, the BJP had suspended Parmar and MLAs Tejwant Singh Negi from Kinnaur, Kishori Lal from Anni, Manohar Dhiman from Indora and K.L. Thakur from Nalagarh for anti-party activities.
All five rebels are adamant on contesting as Independents from their constituencies.
Nadda has managed to persuade three leaders — former MP Maheshwar Singh, who had filed nomination from Kullu Sadar, Yuvraj Kapoor who planned to fight from Karsog, and former Dharamshala block president Anil Choudhary — to withdraw from the poll race.
BJP state vice-president Rattan Singh Pal admitted there was a problem in ticket distribution in many places, but added that the people would vote for the BJP.
“Every worker wants a ticket but it is not possible to accommodate everyone. It shows that we are coming to power when there is a huge rush for party tickets in every constituency. In a cadre-based party, people vote only on the party symbol,” he told ThePrint.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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