On Tuesday, the Congress opened its arms in Indore to welcome former BJP leader, Dr. Gulab Singh Kirar, to its fold in the presence of top leaders, including party chief Rahul Gandhi, Kamal Nath, and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Just a day later, the party was left wringing its hands after realising that Kirar was one of the leaders it had targeted three years ago for his alleged involvement in the Vyapam scam. Left red-faced with Madhya Pradesh set to go for Assembly elections, the Congress is now scrambling for cover. The party deleted a tweet from its official handle that welcomed Kirar’s induction, and its official spokesperson denied he had joined the Congress. But adding to the confusion within, the party’s general secretary in Madhya Pradesh acknowledged that the move did indeed take place.
Kirar, however, is clear. “Irrespective of what they claim, I will work for the Congress because I am its member,’’ he said.
The ruling BJP, meanwhile, can’t hide its glee. “The episode has exposed the Congress because in its desperation to get publicity, it has inducted people with a controversial past,” party spokesperson Rakesh Sharma said.
Kirar is a former member of the Madhya Pradesh Backward Classes and Minority Welfare Commission, and enjoyed Minister of State status in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government till he was expelled from the BJP three years ago when the CBI named him in an FIR linked to the Vyapam scam.
The CBI accused Kirar and his son of involvement in alleged irregularities in the entrance examination for post-graduate courses in medicine in 2011.
Kirar came on the Congress radar early in 2015 when Chouhan shared a stage with him at an OBC community function in Raisen after the Vyapam FIR was registered. At the time, the Opposition party hit out at the Chief Minister, criticising him for his proximity to a scam accused.
Asked about Kirar’s induction, Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza told The Indian Express: “There is no question of disowning someone whom we never owned. He did not join the Congress officially. He was there (in Indore) to meet people. It’s difficult to keep track of everyone who turns up when senior leaders are around.”
But the party’s state vice-president and general secretary (organisation) Chandraprabhas Shekhar struck a different line. “Dr Kirar was officially admitted to the party fold in Indore on Tuesday,” he said. But when he was told that his party’s spokesperson had denied the move, Shekhar said: “I am yet to get any instructions from the top on this.”
On Tuesday, the Congress’s MP unit tweeted from its official handle: “In the presence of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, BJP MLA from Tendukheda Sanjay Sharma, ex-MLA Kamlapat Arya and Gulab Singh Kirar got membership of the Congress. Welcome to Congress family.” Another Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi acknowledged the official tweet but said he was “not aware” why it was deleted later.
According to Kirar, he was a Congressman earlier, too, before joining the BJP. “I thought the Chief Minister would do something for the community. But I was feeling suffocated and chose to return to my old party. I shook hands with Rahul Gandhi, Scindia and Kamal Nath and became a member again in Indore,’’ he said.
Insisting that he was framed in the Vyapam case, Kirar claimed: “I have switched loyalties unconditionally. The CBI interrogated me but did not get anything. Now that I have joined the Congress, maybe the agency will discover something.’’