Lucknow: Unnao MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused of murder as well as a minor’s rape, may have been expelled by the BJP, but he found support from fellow party legislator Ashish Singh ‘Ashu’, who represents Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh.
Ashu was caught on camera telling a panchayat in Unnao Friday that Sengar was going through “difficult times” and that “our best wishes are with him”.
Controversies, however, are nothing new for Ashu, who has found himself on the wrong side of headlines more than once.
Ashu’s brush with politics started with his stint as a student leader at Lucknow University in the 1990s. He joined the RSS student body Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) but his bid for a place in the student union failed when he lost the election.
In December 2017, the Hardoi chief medical officer (CMO) accused the MLA and his aides of holding him hostage and manhandling him over the transfer of an auxiliary nurse midwife.
Ashu filed a counter-complaint, alleging that it was the CMO who had held him hostage, but the MLA’s alleged misbehaviour led to a strike by local doctors and health department officials who demanded action against Ashu and an unconditional apology from the MLA.
In June this year, a clash between Ashu’s supporters and those of a local nagar palika chairman – which reportedly involved the firing of gun shots – left one person injured in Hardoi. The alleged trigger was a dispute between the civic official’s brother and one of Ashu’s aides.
ThePrint made several attempts to reach Ashu for his comment but was not successful as his phones were switched off.
BJP leaders close to Ashu, however, paint a different picture of him, identifying the MLA as “a decent, cultured and respectful man”.
“He has a PhD and even served as the editor of a magazine for many years,” a BJP leader told ThePrint. “He belongs to a reputed family and he is not a bahubali figure (strongman). His father was a teacher and his brother is a civil servant.”
Speaking to ThePrint, UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi sought to defend Ashu, saying that he had made the remarks because Sengar is yet to be convicted.
“The BJP has already taken action in the case by first suspending and then expelling Kuldeep Singh Sengar,” Tripathi said. “He (Ashu) was speaking at a non-political event in Sengar’s constituency… Since Sengar is still an MLA and has not been convicted, Ashish Singh must have referred to that while making his remarks.”