Importance of being a storm trooper: tracking the evolution of Bagga to 'Bagga Ji'

A school dropout like his leader and trained into “activism” at the RSS Shakha, Bagga's claim to fame is his ability to mobilise and lead vandals in the national capital.

Importance of being a storm trooper: tracking the evolution of Bagga to 'Bagga Ji'
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Faraz Ahmad

I first noticed Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga way back in 2009-10, hanging around aimlessly at the then national BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road when the party was at its lowest ebb following its humiliating defeat in the 2009 general elections under the leadership of L K Advani.

Bagga, along with a few other young men, appeared to be a member of RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Arun Jaitely, himself a product of the ABVP, who had his mini office in an outhouse annexe at 9, Ashoka Road next door, allotted to him as a Rajya Sabha MP much earlier, used to aid the search and grooming of new talent from the ABVP and therefore it seemed likely that Bagga might be a new find of Jaitley. Later it turned out that he was a class ten dropout.

Those days the BJP took extra care to cultivate journalists of all hues and Shrikant Sharma who became a minister in Yogi Adityanath's first government and was another protégé of Jaitley, used to be the media in charge with a small cabin and a few cubicles near the canteen comprising the media department.

Bagga too would reach around 3 pm when most journalists arrived and hang around long enough. But for many months he and his associates dared not enter this exclusive journalists’ enclave. Many months or may be a year later I noticed him graduating to distributing press notes in the newly constructed conference hall cum auditorium. But there was nothing striking or noticeable about the slightly built Sikh boy nor about those 2-3 boys hanging around with him.

The UPA led by Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh was on a high despite the BJP spokespersons firing daily fusillades at the UPA government. It frustrated BJP spokespersons Ravi Shankar Prasad, and the newly inducted Nirmala Sitharaman, who rose in BJP esteem for being combative when journalists questioned her party on any issue she would raise. In effect the BJP was looking for combatants to fire at the Congress, a party of lotus eaters.

Around this time, one morning the newspapers carried a small story of some BJP youth landing up at 24 Akbar Road and splashing black paint on a hoarding with Sonia’s photo on it. I don’t recall what the incident was about, except that I saw the photograph and spotted Bagga as the guy who hung around 11, Ashoka Road.

Bagga, a school dropout like his leader and trained into “activism” at the RSS Shakha by his own admission, appeared in news occasionally thereafter through similar acts of hooliganism. But BJP big wigs including Arun Jaitely pretended they did not know ‘Bagga’.

In 2011 he broke into the chamber of noted lawyer and political activist Prashant Bhushan, who had spoken of the step motherly treatment to the Kashmiri people of the Valley. Bagga and his bunch of rowdies entered Bhushan’s chamber in the Supreme Court and roughed him up, video recorded the act and posted it on social media. They identified themselves as members of the “Bhagat Singh Krantikari Sena". The great revolutionary Bhagat Singh, the epitome of secular, atheist and communist revolution, would have squirmed at this communally charged youngster using his name for his antics. But if it was designed to grab media attention, it succeeded spectacularly. Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, a khatri Sikh, had arrived.

BJP’s prospects started looking up from December 2012 when Narendra Modi won a third term as the chief minister of Gujarat and immediately there was an unstated decision by the Sangh/BJP top brass, unknown to Advani, to project Modi as the next PM candidate for the 2014 elections. Nitin Gadkari then the BJP national president held a major function to welcome Modi and virtually anointed him as the future PM. But Gadkari himself became controversial with the NDTV expose of his Purti Group of companies’ alleged scams.

Advani was opposed to Gadkari getting a second term in 2013 and finally at the last minute Gadkari had to step aside to make way for Rajnath Singh as a temporary compromise president. The day the BJP top brass led by Advani, Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaiah Naidu, and others met late evening at 11, Ashoka Road to deliberate on this issue, with Yashwant Sinha throwing his hat to contest against Gadkari and Mahesh Jethmalani resigning from the party over his corruption issue, Bagga and band were again spotted loitering around, presumably to harangue Gadkari if he remained adamant on a second term. That was the first time some hint of threat and menace against any leader not falling in line was visible at BJP HQ.

Then came 2013 and the BJP top brass decided to meet in Mumbai to deliberate on the BJP candidate to lead the party in the 2014 polls. It became obvious by then that the party was rooting for Modi. But Advani dug in his heels and refused to go to Mumbai. We journalists, expecting some big breaking news collected that evening outside Advani’s Prithviraj Road bungalow in the hope of Advani calling us and speaking to us. That did not happen and we had to return disappointed that evening.

But I noticed Bagga standing there with a few other boys and someone aamong us more friendly with him came back and reported that this group planned to garland Advani with dirty chappals to protest his obstruction in the rise of Modi. He was clearly being used as a stormtrooper by one faction of the BJP. No prizes for guessing which one.

That would also explain his rise in the Modi era. He has served his party well by abusing and trolling anti-BJP leaders and activists as anti-national and traitors. And his official position as the spokesman of the Delhi BJP gives him the requisite gravitas as well.

His latest act was of course the attempt to break into Delhi Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s bungalow along with other BJP hooligans in a protest demonstration last month. But the Punjab FIR against him concerns spreading communal hatred and there is ample evidence of it. Bagga has moulded himself after the Karnataka MP Tejaswi Surya, who proudly flaunts his venomous utterances against not just political opponents but anyone perceived critical of Modi/BJP.

So when Deepika Padukone went to JNU to empathise with the JNU students and teachers roughed up in the JNU campus by ABVP goons from Delhi university, Tajinder trolled Deepika. Bagga is a prominent member of Modi’s troll army, although BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya claimed in 2017 that following someone on Twitter did not prove that such a person was set upon by Modi, disputing the claim of journalist Swati Chaturvedi who published her book ‘I am a troll’ in 2017 exposing the BJP’s troll army.

Swati also proved how important Bagga was to Modi by showing that “Modi unfollowed Jwala Gurunath, a staunch supporter, when she complained to him repeatedly on Twitter that she was allegedly sexually harassed by Tajinder Bagga.”

Recently he is doing target practice on BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramaniam Swamy, himself a staunch Hindutva votary, but critical of Modi’s economic policies of late. It is another thing how much of economics this tenth class dropout understands to challenge Dr Swamy who taught economics abroad.

Bagga’s clout with the Prime Minister was amply demonstrated by how the entire Haryana and Delhi Police were up on their feet to save him from being taken to Punjab by Punjab Police. He was booked in an FIR lodged in Mohali for inciting communal sentiment in Punjab.

On April 29 Hindu-Sikh communal riots broke out in Patiala. Punjab Police personnel who came in a cavalcade of five cars/SUVs and claimed to have informed the Delhi Police of their intent to arrest Bagga, were intercepted in Kurukshetra on their way back to Chandigarh/Mohali by a strong Police contingent led by three Superintendents of Police (SPs) of Kurukshetra, Karnal and Ambala, with Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij all along monitoring the situation online.

A Delhi Police convoy following the Punjab Police arrived within minutes at the spot and the Haryana cops forcibly handed over the custody of Bagga to Delhi Police which brought him back amid much fanfare as if he were some freedom fighter detained by the British Police and released honourably.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia described Bagga as a “goon”. He tweeted on Saturday in Hindi, "The entire BJP and its governments are engaged in saving one of their goons who spoke against the brotherhood in Punjab and incited riots. The BJP is a party of goons which makes even its government do the job of goons. Never even by mistake, these people talk about education, health, inflation and unemployment," he alleged. Incidentally Punjab Police maintained that they had despatched five summons to Bagga to appear before the Mohali Police and arrested him from Delhi after he had failed to comply.

Now compare this with the recent arrest of Gujarat independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, a strident critic of Narendra Modi and the BJP, by Assam Police over a social media post critical of Modi. Mevani does not use either abusive or obscene language, nor does he issue any threat. He is a responsible, honourable legislator and has every right to question the Prime Minister.

Yet a BJP supporters in far off Kokrajhar in Assam registered an FIR against him for this “crime.” Immediately Assam Police flew to Gujarat, arrested Mevani, brought him to Guwahati and kept him in custody for a few days. When the magistrate found the grounds of arrest insufficient and unsatisfactory and granted bail to Mevani, Assam Police as an after thought slapped a separate case of assault on a police woman in the Police van and arrested him again. In the next hearing the court, while again granting bail to Mevani, passed severe strictures against Assam police.

But now the BJP governments in Gujarat got into the act and dug out an old case against him of disrupting law and order in 2017, simply to harass Mevani and tell the world who is the BOSS. Rule of law, Constitutional guarantees, anyone ?

Bagga and Mevani sum up the Rule of Law in Modi's New India.

(Views are personal)

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Published: 09 May 2022, 10:00 AM