The BJP was today left with a huge embarrassment a day after inducting former Uttar Pradesh Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha,whose house was raided by the CBI in the multi-crore NRHM scam,as friends and foes attacked the decision forcing the party to decline him a ticket in Assembly elections.
Party heavyweights including L K Advani,Murli Manohar Joshi,Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are said to be opposed to the decision to bring in the former Family Welfare minister,who was sacked by Chief Minister Mayawati and expelled from BSP in November last year.
Brought into the BJP by OBC leader Vinay Katiyar with consent from party president Nitin Gadkari,Kushwaha,himself an OBC leader,was the butt of attack from Congress which ridiculed the anti-corruption campaign of the party and Advani calling it a “double-standard”.
Under all-round attack,including from ally JD-U,the BJP announced that it was not considering giving a ticket for Kushwaha in the forthcoming elections nor was it planning to field him as a star campaigner.
Sources said the issue of Kushwaha’s induction came up at the Central Election Committee meeting chaired by Gadkari where Advani,Swaraj and Joshi are understood to have raised their concerns.
The leaders are believed to have raised the question as to why he was brought in at a time when the party was conducting an anti-corruption campaign as well as attacking the government on the Lokpal issue. It would also boomerang on the party in the Assembly elections.
Gadkari is believed to have defended the decision on the ground that the charges in the National Rural Health Mission scam are yet to be proved against Kushwaha,who is expected to bring in OBC votes at a time when the party should look for broadbasing its campaign.
However,the BJP does not appear to be planning to repeat a D P Yadav-like episode by revoking the decision to induct Kushwaha.
Yadav,a BSP MLA from Badaun in Western UP,was removed within days of his induction ahead of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in view of the controversy over his criminal antecedents.
Only three days ago,BJP Secretary Kirit Somaiya had criticised Kushwaha and alleged he was involved in NRHM scam.
On the other hand,the party went on the offensive saying the Congress-led government at the Centre was misusing CBI to raid Kushwaha’s house the day after he joined BJP.
Leading lights of the Congress hit back at BJP saying Kushwaha’s entry into the party exposed its hollowness in the anti-corruption campaign and becoming an “inn” for such corrupt people.
“Advani took out a rath yatra probably looking for such people…. Till the time they are in other parties,they are corrupt but the day they join BJP,they have taken a holy dip in the Ganges,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters.
Congress Legislature Party leader in UP Pramod Tiwari said that the BJP has become so desperate that it has become a “dustbin” collecting rejects of BSP.
“This step has proved the hollowness of the statements of leaders like L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj in parliament and indicates that the target of BJP is not to fight corruption but to somehow reach power,” UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi said in Lucknow.
Senior leader Digvijay Singh used the opportunity to rub Team Anna,asking its members Arvind Kejriwal,Kiran Bedi and the Bhushans to comment on this action of BJP.
“This exposes the opportunistic politics of BJP. Today,they (BJP) have become the strongest advocate of a man who is accused of having embezzled thousands of crore of the National Rural Health Mission fund,” Union Minister Ambika Soni said.
“Is there any other way that BJP can justify that the thrown-outs of BSP were garlanded and welcomed in BJP despite serious corruption charges against them? After all,Mayawati would have thrown such people out only after being convinced about their corruption. Will they become clean by joining BJP?” she said.
BJP ally JD(U) joined the criticism expressing regret over the induction of Kushwaha.
“I believe that the tainted people in Uttar Pradesh should not get tickets. As far as BJP is concerned,it is our ally and I regret the development,” JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav
The Samajwadi party said the BJP’s move had exposed the real face and character of the party.
On his part,Kushwaha himself said that he was ready to face an independent investigations into the charges against him and claimed he was innocent.