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Ab Dilli door nahin: State BJP chief Adesh Gupta turns a corner with Jahangirpuri

The BJP's announcement of Adesh Gupta as the president of the Delhi unit had come out of the blue for most. However, the Jahangirpuri violence and demolitions may have changed the BJP chief's fortunes.

Written by Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi |
Updated: April 25, 2022 9:17:28 am
Adesh Gupta with a toy bulldozer-like machine, gifted by a supporter, at his office. (Express photo by Abhinav Rajput)

NEARLY TWO years after he took over as Delhi BJP chief, to the surprise of his party colleagues, Adesh Gupta finally has his moment in the sun.

Starting from the time violence broke out in Jahangirpuri during the Hanuman Jayanti procession on April 16, to all that has followed since, the 53-year-old councillor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation has been in the thick of the action. His latest move was writing a letter to the other civic bodies of Delhi to carry out similar demolitions in their jurisdiction.

The BJP’s announcement of Adesh Gupta as the president of the Delhi unit in June 2020, as a successor to high-profile MP Manoj Tiwari, had come out of the blue for most. Gupta’s name was neither making rounds at the time nor did anyone in political circles saw him as heavyweight enough for the post.

The politics of Gupta, who is originally from Kannauj in UP, had till then been largely centred around his constituency Patel Nagar, from where he is a first-time Councillor in the North MCD. He served as the North MCD’s mayor from April 2018 to April 2019.

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Gupta’s selection immediately led to two kinds of voices from the state unit. A section believed the party had given the right message by choosing a karyakarta as state president instead of big names or celebrities. But there was another section that believed that the state president post in Delhi was parallel to AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, and hence the choice should have been one that grabbed immediate attention.

The Delhi BJP president post comes with considerable influence in state politics, as the party is also in power in all the three municipal corporations of the Capital (members of the fourth civic body, NDMC, are nominated). Given that Delhi is a Union territory, the Centre (also ruled by the BJP) controls police, DDA and other government services in the Capital.

“Adesh Gupta’s tenure as state president did not start with the hype that is generally built around the post. Being a relatively unknown face, he had the disadvantage of the media not according him the spotlight earlier presidents had seen,” a senior BJP leader said.

Gupta also had the disadvantage of being pitted against a bustling Aam Aadmi Party, which in Delhi has been one step ahead of the BJP in the perception battle. Under him, the BJP lost, one by one, five bypolls in the Capital, including for Shalimar Bagh, which it had won in 2017.

Senior leaders were seen to be holding outreach programmes in the Capital without taking the Delhi unit into confidence. While one of the reasons behind Adesh Gupta’s appointment was his familiarity with MCD politics, he was not able to counter the image of the BJP-ruled MCDs being “corrupt” bodies, with mounting anti-incumbency against them.

That has changed now with Jahangirpuri, admitted a BJP leader.

Soon after the violence on April 16, Gupta wrote to North MCD Mayor Raja Iqbal Singh demanding that the illegal encroachments and constructions done by those arrested for the riot be demolished. While the exercise was planned at different levels, Gupta constantly kept the pressure.

A day before the demolitions, which the MCD continues to insist was part of a routine exercise and not linked to the violence, Gupta along with local BJP MP Hans Raj Hans met Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana demanding police force for the anti-encroachment exercise planned for April 20 and 21. Later in the night, the state unit was given confirmation regarding the same by police, which agreed to the deployment having earlier denied the same for similar demolitions planned for April 19.

Adesh Gupta takes credit for this, while talking to The Indian Express. “I spoke to the Municipal Commissioner over the phone and we met the Police Commissioner on Tuesday afternoon to tell him that there was a demand from the public that encroachments be removed, and that he should provide adequate police force,” he said.

Sources in the party said Gupta has emerged as the nucleus of communication between the central leadership, corporation leaders, bureaucrats in MCDs and the police chief. “The MCD was initially not very enthusiastic about the (demolition) exercise, but later it got a phone call from the state chief with a message that it had to be done,” a leader said.

Gupta’s letter to South and East mayors urges that bulldozers be deployed for demolition drives and strict action be taken against illegal encroachments on government land by “Bangladeshis, Rohingya and anti-social elements”.

A BJP leader said they saw Adesh Gupta now going far. “It would depend on his political manoeuvring from here on, whether he can grab the limelight the way Narottam Mishra (a senior Madhya Pradesh minister considered a hardliner) has done in MP,” the leader said.

However, while very upbeat with the “bulldozer model”, many BJP cadres say it would be wrong to entirely credit the state unit for it. A former office-bearer pointed out that this couldn’t have been possible without the central leadership’s blessing.

What is likely to help Gupta is that he has few enemies, and is known as a soft-spoken person who does not lose his cool in public. This is not an easy task in the Delhi BJP, a unit plagued by infighting. “His challenge like his predecessor has been to take different heads and their egos along, whether MPs or former leaders,” a leader said.

Many of them continue to feel their opinion is not heard, while some think that their recommendations are not given weightage in the state unit.

From hometown Kannauj, Gupta was a part of the ABVP starting 1987, holding different posts. He moved to the Capital in 1994, and was involved with the BJP Yuva Morcha from 2004 to 2007. His big break appears to have been rising to the post of national office secretary of the Yuva Morcha at a time when current Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan was president of the outfit.

Between 2009 and 2014, he occupied several positions in the Delhi BJP, from block to district to state level. In 2009, he became the mandal president from West Patel Nagar and later the in-charge of Najafgarh district. During this time, Adesh Gupta is believed to have grown close to party president J P Nadda, having worked with him at the organisational level as party worker.

“He wanted a ticket in the 2020 Assembly elections in Delhi but could not get one,” a BJP leader said, adding that it was only possible in the BJP that a man denied an Assembly ticket can become the state president.

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