Naresh Agarwal and Narayan Rane are just two of the people whose old ‘sins’ were washed away by aligning with the party — the list is much longer.
New Delhi: On successive days, the BJP has embraced two leaders from other parties that were once its sworn enemies — it gave Maharashtra Swabhimaan Paksh leader and former Congressman Narayan Rane a Rajya Sabha berth, and then gave former Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal a membership.
And they’re not the first of their kind. In fact, over the course of the BJP’s recruitment drive of the last few years, the past doesn’t seem to matter – as soon as any leader aligns with the BJP, it’s almost as though all their ‘sins’ have been washed away by sprinkling ‘Ganga jal’, and the old name-calling and allegations of corruption have disappeared from history.
Before joining the BJP, Agarwal had several run-ins with the party, during his time with the Congress, the BSP and the SP. From calling Narendra Modi a ‘teli’, labeling Kulbhushan Jadhav a terrorist and comparing Hindu Gods with alcohol, Agarwal made the headlines, and was met with strong condemnation from BJP leaders.
BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya even called him a spokesperson for the Pakistani government.
Naresh Agarwal of the Samajwadi Party comes across as Pakistan’s spokesperson which is no different from Rahul Gandhi questioning and demanding proof for surgical strikes… With UPA around does India need enemies?
— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) December 27, 2017
In July 2017, after he compared Hindu Gods with alcohol in the Rajya Sabha during a debate on lynching in the name of cow protection, finance minister Arun Jaitley said: “Agarwal would be liable for prosecution if he had made the remarks outside the house. He should apologise and withdraw the comment.”
But suddenly, the tables have turned, and a number of BJP leaders are finding it tough to defend their new colleague because of their run-ins in the past.
When former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane was with the Congress, he was branded the most corrupt leader in the state by the BJP. In 2016, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya wrote to Satyabrata Kumar, joint director of the Enforcement Directorate, seeking an investigation into companies run by Rane and his family. He alleged Rane diverted money from tax havens to One Avighna Park, an under-construction luxury residential project in central Mumbai.
Rane left the Congress in September last year, and his ‘cleansing’ started after a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi that same month. Rane was interested in joining the BJP, but Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis red-flagged it, saying it would earn name for the party. Hence a new way was found: Rane launched a new party, Maharashtra Swabhimaan Paksh, and joined the NDA.
Himanta Biswa Sarma
In July 2015, the BJP released a booklet titled ‘Saga of Scams in Congress-ruled States’. This was a reaction to the Congress’s demand for the resignations of the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on charges of corruption.
The booklet had special mention of Assam Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma; it described him as a ‘key suspect’ in the Guwahati water supply scam. He was also questioned by the CBI in the Saradha chit fund scam.
Barely a month after the booklet’s release, Sarma met Amit Shah in Delhi and, some time later, joined the party.
Today, Sarma is the architect of the BJP’s rise to power in most of the northeast, and one of its post powerful leaders.
Before joining the BJP in October last year, Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy was the BJP’s prime target on corruption in West Bengal. Roy is one of accused in multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam along with 16 other TMC leaders. Even Prime Minister Modi targeted the “tainted leaders” of the Trinamool Congress during the Bengal assembly elections.
However, after having differences with party chief Mamata Banerjee, Roy quit the TMC in September last year, and embraced the BJP in October. Roy’s entry played a role in the BJP’s victory in Tripura, where he has considerable influence.
In March 2016, nine Congress MLAs in Uttarakhand revolted under the leadership of Vijay Bahuguna, and extended support to the BJP in order to topple Harish Rawat’s government. The MLAs were brought to Delhi on a chartered flight in order to prevent any change of mind at the last moment. Later in May that year, all these MLAs joined the BJP.
Some of these leaders had constantly faced BJP barbs for various reasons. When the giant flood disaster hit Uttarakhand in June 2013, then-CM Bahuguna was criticised by the BJP for not doing enough, and wasting his time in Delhi.
Bahuguna had also been accused of indulging in corrupt practices during his stint as a Bombay High Court judge.
Bahuguna’s younger son Saurabh is a MLA, while he himself was eyeing a Rajya Sabha berth, which was instead handed to the party’s media in-charge, Anil Baluni.
After serving the Congress for more than fifty years, veteran leader and four-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand N.D. Tiwari joined the BJP in January last year, along with his son. Tiwari was governor of Andhra Pradesh from 2007 to 2009, but had to resign from the post after he got embroiled in a sex tape controversy, for which the BJP demanded his resignation.
On 26 December 2009, Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP had said: “It is absolutely contrary to the dignity of the office of the governor, we demand that Mr N.D. Tiwari should resign immediately.”
Swami Prasad Maurya
Once BSP supremo Mayawati’s right-hand man and a minister in her cabinet, he is now part of Yogi Adityanath government. Since 2012, Maurya was the leader of opposition in the assembly and a trusted Mayawati lieutenant, vocally attacking BJP leaders.
In April 2016, when Keshav Prasad Maurya became BJP state president, Swami Prasad Maurya called him a criminal and raised serious questions on his credentials. Three months later, Keshav Maurya was welcoming Swami Prasad into the BJP in the presence of Amit Shah in Delhi.
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