BJP’S Kushwaha Syndrome
Politics over Babu Singh Kushwaha—Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-expelled and tainted family welfare minister inducted into BJP—came a full circle recently. In a letter addressed to Bharatiya Janata Party national president, Nitin Gadkari, Kushwaha voluntarily withdrew himself from the party, explaining that his association with the party has unnecessarily subjected the party to a political controversy.
The once close confidant of BSP supremo Mayawati alleged that he was totally innocent and was a victim of quota politics game being played by the Congress government. Kushwaha said that his protest against minorities being given a four and a half per cent share from the OBC quota was not liked by the Congress and it tried all means including Central Bureau of Investigation against him to cow him down.
The former minister said that the truth was that neither had he any criminal record nor had he been proved guilty so far of any criminal offence in any court of law. However, as he did not wish the BJP to suffer due to the ill campaigns and allegation levelled against him, Kushwaha said that he had decided to postpone his membership to BJP till the time charges against him were proved wrong.
In his letter he appealed to all the backward castes to vote for BJP in the coming general elections as this would ensure that their reservation was protected and that they get a fair deal in everything.
While Kushwaha’s letter has to a large extent postponed, if not totally stopped, the internal revolt that threatened to blow up the BJP as most of the senior party leaders were against Kushwaha joining the BJP. But to the common man this has been a week of great political drama.
Well, if cricket is the game of glorious uncertainties, politics, especially politics of the Hindi heartland—Uttar Pradesh—can make one fall back and gasp in disbelief. Equations and relations have changed overnight here on political lines ever since the Election Commission has announced the dates for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and other four states.
Throughout the week the much-debated issue in the state, and even outside UP was the joining of two BSP-expelled tainted ministers Babu Singh Kushwaha and Badshah Singh into the BJP. Charged by the CBI with embezzling a huge sum of money from the National Union Rural Health Mission funds Kushwaha was also being accused of the murders of two Chief Medical Officers (CMOs).
Irregularities were reported in the NRHM fund disbursed to Uttar Pradesh in 2011. In November 2011, the Allahabad High Court directed the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the misuse of the NRHM funds in UP. The CBI formed a special probe team to investigate the irregularities in funds disbursed to 72 CMOs across UP.
Kushwaha’s entry into the party just before the assembly elections in UP and also at a time when BJP was cheering the anti-corruption wave in the country seemed totally ill timed. The move had generated a lot of heat within the party, especially among the senior BJP bigwigs who saw this as an indefensible lapse on the part of the BJP Uttar Pardesh chief Surya Pratap Sahi, the main supporter of this induction. The move had further divided the already divided cadre-based party in the state which goes to the polls in a seven phase from to February 4 to February 25.
Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, LK Advani, Maneka Gandhi, Arun Jaitley all expressed their resentment quite openly. Former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Uma Bharti had even gone as far as to say that she would not campaign for the party till the decision was taken back. Yogi Adityanath, BJP MP from Gorakhpur, had threatened to quit party and politics both if Kushwaha’s induction was not revoked. None could accept the fact that the party was inducting men who had been expelled from the BSP on corruption charges.
But it seems that the BJP leaders favouring the entry of these tainted ministers have all along had their logic. While they claimed that Kushwaha would help garner sympathy and votes of the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) for BJP, Badshah will propel Thakur caste votes towards BJP.
The welcome extended to Kushwaha by BJP, regarded as a party of higher castes, especially the Brahmins, was seen to be bringing the party the sympathy votes of Kushwahas, Mauryas, Koeris and other Most Backward Castes in UP. That is why initially the BJP ignored all the protests and the ire of its members and supporters asserting that it was not a hasty decision but one that would bring lasting gains to the party.
According to reports, Gadkari while giving a patient hearing to the leaders opposing the move urged them to look at long-term gains. Pro-Kushwaha group seemed to have plans of projecting Kushwaha, who had been an integral part of BSP mentor Kashi Ram’s mission to lift the low castes and rose from the ranks and file as a worker, as a true victim of Mayawati’s ruthlessness. These leaders hoped that through this OBC sympathy card they would be one up on the other political parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the BSP were neglecting the OBCs and were more involved in luring the minorities into their fold.
Of course, the general BJP supporters found it difficult to digest this strategy. They had been cashing in on the support the party had offered to the anti-corruption crusade of team Anna that sans the temple issue they felt the anti-corruption plank was the safest for them. Kushwaha’s tainted image would have most certainly toppled this plank.
Also those against Kushwaha’s induction pointed out that the man was incapable of drawing any OBC votes to the party as he had never been a mass leader or contested an election. He has been helped up the ladder by Mayawati who rewarded him for his loyalty by nominating him MLC and a minister.
A section among the BJP was also of the view that Kushwaha’s induction was a result of Vinay Katiyar, who is angry at the party giving so much weightage to Uma Bharti in the state and ignoring him. Katiyar welcomed the induction of Kushwaha.
Kushwaha was to initially campaign mainly in Bundelkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh that have a heavy concentration of his caste, counted among the most backward. Kushwaha appears to have done some face-saving for the party which faced a lot of flak on his induction from both within and outside the party. If it had not removed Kushwaha then there were all chances of a rebellion within the already divided party. In case it decided to remove Kushwaha, it would have to face the ire of the OBC. Kushwaha’s voluntarily exit may have silenced BJP ranks but the Opposition sure will play up this incident in their election campaign.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow