Amit Shah hopes Naresh Agarwal will wreck Opposition unity

With his dubious party-hopping record, having been part of SP, BSP, Congress and also BJP earlier, Amit Shah will try to use turncoat Naresh Agarwal to wreck nascent Opposition unity in Uttar Pradesh

Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Ashok K Singh

The red carpet welcome accorded to Naresh Agarwal at 6, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, the new BJP headquarters in Delhi, is symptomatic of a malaise of the new BJP. It’s a malaise that’s now untreatable. The ailment exposes the BJP to serious troubles in future.

Naresh Agarwal has been a repeat offender and party hopper. Yet, the BJP took no time in admitting him to the party. How desperately BJP needed him was reflected in the fact that heavyweight Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal was assigned the job of welcoming him to the party. The new BJP headquarters in Delhi, which looks more like a corporate office than the office of a mass political party, provided an apt background to the welcome ceremony.

Agarwal’s defection to the BJP from Samajwadi Party and the alacrity with which he was admitted can be understood against the background of permutations and combinations for upcoming Rajya Sabha elections. It explains why BJP leaders ignored his past and recent records to welcome him in the party.

Barely a few days ago, SP had dumped Agarwal in favour of actor Jaya Bachchan for the sole Rajya Sabha seat the party can win from Uttar Pradesh in the March 23 elections to the Upper House. Agarwal and the BJP moved fast to sign a Faustian deal.

The deal is to put a spanner in the wheels of growing proximity between Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, a proximity which dealt a huge blow to the BJP in Lok Sabha bypolls to Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats. The deal is aimed at damaging the BSP’s prospects to win 1 Rajya Sabha seat from UP.

BJP has fielded 9 candidates, though it can win only 8 out of 10 vacant seats from UP. In the UP assembly of 404, the BJP and allies have 324 seats. Each candidate needs 37 votes to get through. BJP can win 8 and will have 28 spare votes, needing barely 9 votes to win one more seat.

Akhilesh Yadav’s SP with 47 votes in the assembly will win one seat, for which they have re-nominated Jaya Bachchan. They will then have 10 spare votes. Mayawati, with 19 BSP votes, was eyeing SP’s 10 spare votes, Congress’s seven and RLD’s one to send one representative to the Rajya Sabha.

This is where Naresh Agarwal comes in. His son Nitin Agarwal, an SP MLA, has also joined the BJP along with his father. That makes BSP one vote short of 37.

It’s now for Naresh Agarwal to play smart defection politics and encourage cross-voting from SP, BSP and other parties to upset the calculations of BJP’s main rivals, Akhilesh and Mayawati. With his dubious party-hopping record, with his experience of having been part of all the major political parties in UP, including SP, BSP and Congress, and also BJP earlier, Agarwal is in an excellent position to play the cross-voting game. With BJP backing, Agarwal will have the resources at his command to organise defections. He can become a spoiler for Akhilesh and Mayawati and an asset for Amit Shah to wreck nascent opposition unity in the state.

The red carpet welcome accorded to Naresh Agarwal at 6, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, the new BJP headquarters in Delhi, is symptomatic of a malaise of the new BJP. It’s a malaise that’s now untreatable. The ailment exposes the BJP to serious troubles in future

Naresh Agarwal’s past record is awkward for BJP

The most famous turncoat of Uttar Pradesh politics holds a dubious record for not only making anti-women comments but has also made loose statements on issues dear to the Hindutva party.

For instance, Agarwal embarrassed the BJP by declaring Kulbhushan Jadhav a “terrorist”. He angered the BJP with a remark in the Rajya Sabha by linking Hindu gods to different brands of alcohol. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley felt compelled to slam Agarwal and challenged him, “Do you have the audacity of repeating this in relation to any other religious denomination?” Recently, Agarwal made a casteist slur against Modi.

But nothing is more sacrosanct for the BJP than winning elections. Amit Shah has mastered the art of winning elections, though that’s under cloud now after successive defeats in Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha bypolls.

The only Rajya Sabha battle of prestige Shah lost was conceding defeat to Congress’ Ahmed Patel in Gujarat. It was a silly mistake on the part of Congress defectors, which spoiled Shah’s game. A smart operator like Naresh Agarwal is sure not to make any silly electoral mistake.

Except that he is capable of further sullying the BJP’s image. Agarwal fired off his misogynistic comments targeting Jaya Bachchan stating that she was preferred over him because she used to “dance and act in films”, in the presence of Piyush Goyal and other leaders. It was left to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to call out his misogyny. That, however, doesn’t make Agarwal less important in the BJP’s scheme of thing.

His entry to the BJP flies in the face of Narendra Modi’s moral preaching about so-called ‘swachch politics’.

Ashok K Singh is a senior journalist. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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