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Ram Shankar Katheria
> “If we don’t begin a struggle, tomorrow we will lose another (man). Doosra jane se pehle, yeh hatyare hi chale jayen is prakar ki taqat humein dikhani hogi”
Union Minister of State for HRD, he is one of the BJP’s Dalit faces, a professor and an aggressive activist with an RSS background.
Born in Etawah, Katheria lived close to the local RSS unit and went to serve for 13 years as a pracharak in and around Agra, the Lok Sabha constituency he now represents, before the BJP made him its district president a decade ago and then national general secretary in August 2014.
He is well connected to his voters; soon after VHP leader Arun Mahaur, a Dalit, was murdered last week, Katheria rushed to meet the family. Whenever in Agra, he meets people at his constituency office. On Thursdays, he takes complaints relating exclusively to electricity.
A professor of Hindi in Agra University, Katheria has taken leave after becoming an MP. He teaches chapters of Dalit Chetna and has written books such as Dalit Chetna ki Avashyakata, Samajik Ekta Ki Avashyakata and Dalit Sahitya aur Nain Chunautiyan.
In his poll affidavit in 2014, Katheria declared 23 cases, mostly relating to obstructing public servants, rioting and unlawful assembly. His constituency representative Anil Chaudhary said most of these are of the kind politicians face for leading protests.
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> “If you want to test Hindus, then let’s decide a date and take on Muslims”
The MP from Fatehpur Sikri, he had quit the RLD to join the BJP months before the Lok Sabha elections, having apparently sensed that Jat voters would be inclined towards the BJP following the Muzaffarnagar riots. The prominent Jat leader had not carried the image of a champion of Hindutva until his speech last week. As reported in The Indian Express, he was once an accused in a 1990 case of violence against Dalits.
Babulal was an independent when he won the Fatehpur Sikri assembly seat in 1996 and with the RLD when he won in 2002, going on to become a minister of state in the SP-RLD government. He resigned in 2006 after his name came up in the murder case of Meerut University lecturer Kavita Chowdhary. Though he was not convicted, BJP sources said they were initially reluctant to induct him but changed their mind after the Muzaffarnagar riots as they sought to mobilise Jat voters. The decision to field Babulal from Fatehpur Sikri in 2014 had led to protests by local BJP workers, with some pamphlets describing the BJP as Babulal Janata Party and others carrying the message “BJP bachao, Babulal bhagao”.
He has been aggressive with party colleagues too. Last September, BJP district president Ashok Rana complained to police against Babulal, alleging the MP and others misbehaved with him and attacked district general secretary Rishi Upadhyay during a clash between two BJP groups.
> “Agar hum Hindu naujwan apni maa se paida hue hain, eent ka jawab patthar se, khoon ka jawab khoon se denge (If we Hindus are born of our mother’s womb, we will reply in kind, with blood”
The Agra VHP president is a life insurance agent, his roots in the RSS since age 13 when he started attending shakhas and training sessions. After working with Bajrang Dal, Ashok has been with the VHP for the past 10 years. He has five cases lodged against him in Agra, all relating to communal clashes. One case was lodged around four months ago after he allegedly led a group that forcibly closed down a market area after some Muslims had allegedly assaulted a Hindu youth. He was jailed for two months in 2011 for celebrating Shaurya Diwas on the anniversary of the Ayodhya demolition, though police had asked him not to. “I will keep on fighting for Hindus if Muslims commit atrocities. The country will run according to the Hindu religion,” he told The Indian Express.
> “Chhapa maaro, burqa pehno, lekin inhen gher-gher kar le aao. Ek sar ke badle dus sar kaat lo”
The BJP corporator is a daughter of poet and lyricist Gopal Das Neeraj, Padma Bhushan. In office for three consecutive terms, she is the leader of BJP corporators in Agra Municipal Corporation as well as chairman of Bhasha Sansthan in the UP government, with the rank of a cabinet minister. A firebrand pro-Hindutva leader, Kundanika is also vice-president of BJP’s Braj region unit where party workers call her “Iron Lady”. She was a member of a committee that the BJP formed to promote the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme in UP. Earlier associated with Durga Vahini, women’s wing of VHP.
Jagan Prasad Garg
> “You will have to fire bullets, take up rifles, wield knives. Elections are approaching in 2017, start showing your strength.”
Four-time MLA from Agra North, he started his politics with ABVP in Agra College. Later treasurer in the BJP’s Mahanagar unit, he is also a member of Deen Dayal Upadhyay Janma-bhoomi Smarak Samiti run by the RSS in Mathura. Garg has a dairy business in Agra. BJP leaders said his statement at the Agra meeting was uncharacteristic of Garg, whom they described an an easy-going person on good terms with voters of all communities. “Garg never speaks ill of anyone, even his political rivals,” said a BJP leader.