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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Behind the scenes: Why Delhi BJP suspended three councillors on corruption charges months before MCD polls

While BJP seeks to send a message of clean governance, pressure by AAP and one of the councillors switching sides may have forced its hand

Written by Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi |
Updated: September 20, 2021 9:00:54 pm
From left to right: Rajni Bablu Pandey, Sanjay Thakur, Pooja Madan.

The BJP’s Delhi unit Sunday expelled three sitting councillors from the party’s membership for six years over complaints of “excessive financial corruption”, releasing a strongly worded letter that read: “This is to inform you that owing to several complaints of excessive financial corruption from the people, you have been suspended from Bharatiya Janata Party’s membership for a period of six years. You have been informed of these complaints many times in the past and have been asked to correct your corrupt behaviour, but no improvement was seen. Therefore, you are expelled from the party for six years, with immediate effect.”

A look at what transpired behind the scenes in each case:

Rajni Bablu Pandey, councillor from New Ashok Nagar

An audio recording became public in August last year, purportedly between a builder and Pandey’s brother-in-law Nishant, in which the former can be heard saying he has given money to him as well as a junior engineer but the construction project is stalled. The AAP later did a press conference, alleging that the councillor and her team are infamous in her area because of such activities. The BJP then formed a committee under the leadership of the then EDMC standing committee head Parvesh Sharma.

“There were complaints of money exchanging hands for construction… The committee report suggested there was truth in some of these allegations,” said a BJP office bearer.

BJP MP from East Delhi Gautam Gambhir and some office bearers had also complained against the councillor’s relatives to Delhi unit chief Adesh Gupta and urged action against her. On Monday, Gambhir told The Indian Express, “This is a good step. I had also complained against her; such a step should have been taken earlier. There should also be action against those who support them in such acts or on whose backing such actions are done.”

Pandey said, “We will be with the party our entire life. Out of jealousy, some people wrongly spread the word inside the party that I am joining AAP, so this action was taken… The earlier allegations against me have been cleared by the court.”

Sanjay Thakur, councillor from Said-ul-Ajaib

Thakur had faced charges of real estate-related fraud and forgery. A complaint regarding occupying government land was registered against him, and on June 10 last year, another complaint was registered against him for forcefully gaining control over a person’s house in Greater Kailash.

There was also a complaint in January 2020 by a retired professor from Patna against Thakur for allegedly making fake property documents. AAP had in April this year called a press conference and alleged that Thakur was involved in extortion and a nexus with some builders.

Thakur, however, said the BJP did not even give an opportunity to present his stand. “The building mafia are working against me. There are people in my own party against me, some need tickets, so all kinds of things are at play,” he said.

Pooja Madan, councillor from Mukherjee Nagar

In Madan’s case, party insiders said, her decision to join the AAP along with her husband Sanjay appears to have played a bigger role than complaints against her. According to sources, Delhi BJP leaders were aware of their plan to switch over at least three days earlier, and top leaders tried to stop them on Sunday morning.

The two joined AAP hours after the letter was made public.

Sources said Madan and Northeast district president Mohan Goyal were not on good terms over some issues related to party activities, which may have prompted the former to leave. She said, “If I was corrupt then why was action taken just before my joining? Till 9.15, I was a good person when senior (BJP) leaders came to my house, but suddenly I became bad.”

Why was action taken so late?

The complaints against both Pandey and Thakur are more than a year old. Party insiders said the Delhi BJP has learnt through surveys that there is incredible resentment against several councillors over perceived corruption, especially to get buildings constructed.

With elections nearing and the party facing a three-term anti-incumbency and a buoyant AAP, the BJP wants to be seen as being proactive on the issue, sources in the party said, adding that it also sends a message that no such allegations would be tolerated, especially in an election year.

Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta told The Indian Express, “It takes time to investigate cases. Every bit has to be examined, karyakartas have to be asked. But we want to make it clear that in the future too, if anyone is found to be engaged in such activity, there will be strict action.”

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