When the Aam Aadmi Party decided to contest the forthcoming Punjab Assembly polls last year, state in-charge Sanjay Singh handpicked Mehrauli MLA Naresh Yadav as his ‘sahprabhari’ to assist him. While Yadav is now caught in a major row over the alleged desecration of the Quran in Malerkotla, Singh is still standing firmly by his side.
“Yadav has been working tirelessly in the state and the locals know it. Just because the Akalis are dreaming about getting him into trouble, it will not land him in trouble. We have said this repeatedly… if Yadav is found guilty let him be hanged. We say that with as much insistence only because we are 100 per cent certain of his innocence,” said Singh, who has been accompanying Yadav for his meetings with the Punjab Police.
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A lawyer and first-time MLA, Yadav started as a social activist and was elected general secretary in a federation of Vasant Kunj Residents’ Welfare Association five years ago. His work in the locality came to the notice of an AAP team scouting for candidates for the 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi.
“He is probably our most humble MLA and maintains such a low profile that people won’t even know he is a legislator. He is one of those who will arrive before time for meetings and sit through them patiently and attentively. Attacking him for such a charge will only backfire on our political opponents. I have a feeling after this incident our vote-share in Malerkotla must have gone up by 2 per cent,” said Durgesh Pathak, who headed the organisation building exercise in the state.
Since his appointment as ‘sahprabhari’ attached to Singh, Yadav has led the Punjab Bachao campaign, travelling 3,000 km across the state. Even as he was named by the main accused Vijay Kumar in the alleged Quran desecration case last week, the party has strongly defended him. Party functionaries in the state insisted the allegations have had no negative impact on the party.
Hours after joining the investigation Tuesday, Yadav told The Indian Express, “I have known Vijay Kumar since 2000, when both of us were pursuing a course together in Connaught Place. I knew he was an RSS pracharak, but I had no suspicions about him then. We were in touch, on and off, but after I won the elections we were again in regular contact. Politicians meet a variety of people on a daily basis. Just because I have met someone or spoken to someone does not make me guilty of a crime that the other person has committed. Or does it?”
Singh said the police did not have any ‘solid evidence’ against Yadav.