Tentwallah in charge of NE takes Jaitley objections in his stride

Sudhanshu Mittal — businessman politician,proud to be called a tentwallah — is creating a few ripples after his re-emergence on the political scene.

Written by Sobhana K | New Delhi | Published:March 14, 2009 12:04 am

Mittal’s rebuff: ‘If failed lawyers can join politics,why can’t businessmen?’

Sudhanshu Mittal — businessman politician,proud to be called a tentwallah — is creating a few ripples after his re-emergence on the political scene.

But he is unruffled by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley’s disapproval of the new role the party’s high command has found for Mittal: incharge of the general elections in Assam and co in-charge of the entire North East.

Mittal played safe when asked why his relationship with Jaitley has soured. “It surprises me when people say that. Jaitley is a senior leader and he will not do anything that might jeopardise the party’s chances in the coming elections,” he told Newsline. He also had this to say: “If failed lawyers can be part of politics,why not businessmen like me?”

Interestingly both Jaitley and Mittal are from the same school — St Xavier’s — and the same college,Shri Ram College of Commerce.

Political whisperers say the new responsibility given to Mittal is a big leap from the position he has held so far — member of the party’s national council. It is also understood the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has a soft corner for Mittal,a key associate of late leader Pramod Mahajan.

Mittal explained why Assam is so close to his heart. “I had supported the All Assam Students Union during the days of student politics. That relation was strengthened when I,along with Pramod Mahajan,looked after Assam’s Assembly polls in 2006,” Mittal said. A suggestion that he might be eyeing a Rajya Sabha seat from there drew a sharp response: “Absolutely not.”

Apart from the proximity Mittal has shared with the late Pramod Mahajan,he has had a fairly uneventful political career. His made the foray in 1981 when he was elected president of Delhi University Students Union as member of the Janata Vidyarthi Morcha. He became familiar with L K Advani,and then met Mahajan. “In 1983,Mahajan led the National Yuva Morcha,I was the vice-president of the Delhi wing. We shared the same views and our bond grew strong,” he said. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections,the party had shortlisted his name for the Chandni Chowk seat but soap queen Smriti Irani replaced him in the last moment. Party sources say Jaitley orchestrated the replacement. In 2006,he contested as an Independent from Uttar Pradesh for the Rajya Sabha but lost.

However,Mittal’s name has come up more frequently in back-room gossip. The Delhi Police interrogated Mittal in 2006 for ‘destroying evidence’ after Mahajan’s son Rahul was implicated in a cocaine scandal. He was the first to reach Apollo Hospital where Rahul Mahajan was admitted and reportedly ordered a “stomach wash” before the police could get there.

Mittal’s family has run the Delhi Tent House for three generations,a profession that has given him the sobriquet ‘tentwallah’. “I am proud to be called that. Managing a tent business requires a lot of hard work,” he told Newsline. He also rubbished queries that he used party connections to make money from corporate houses. “I was born rich. I went to school in a car,what is wrong in that?” he asked.

Mittal’s wife Rubina is a professor in Delhi University. He has two children,a son who is studying in America and a daughter who is still in school.

Raring to go,BJP acts before time

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s enthusiasm ahead of Lok Sabha elections is unparallelled — they denounced the choice of five Congress ‘candidates’ before the Congress could officially announce their names.

Delhi BJP president Om Prakash Kohli sent a press release to media houses,launching a critique on two of the five Congressmen whose names television channels were mulling on Thursday as possible nominees for various Delhi seats.

The channels claimed Jagdish Tytler would get the North East seat,Sajjan Kumar was the choice for South Delhi,Mukesh Sharma for West Delhi,Ajay Maken for New Delhi and Sandeep Dikshit for East Delhi. Kohli promptly despatched a statement condemning the selection of Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. He called ‘them anti-Sikh’. In his statement,Kohli said since the case against both Tytler and Sajjan Kumar for instigating the 1984 Sikh riots was still pending in court,it was unfortunate the Congress had considered them as candidates.

Nearly an hour after the statement was sent out,when other party workers confirmed the Congress had not come out with an official list,BJP workers could be seen frantically contacting media houses to withdraw the statement.

—ENS

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