Bhopal: Two days after the Congress announced the induction of former BJP leader Gulab Singh Kirar into the party in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, the opposition party “disowned” him on Thursday after realising that it had targeted him in connection with the Vyapam scam earlier.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is watching with glee the Congress's discomfiture over Kirar, an Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader, in the run-up to the high-stakes Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, scheduled to be held on November 28.
The saffron party said Kirar had no association with it and his cross-over to the Congress will have no bearing on it.
On October 30, the Madhya Pradesh unit of the Congress had announced the induction of Kirar into the party in Indore in the presence of party chief Rahul Gandhi and other leaders.
"In the presence of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, BJP MLA from Tendukheda Sanjay Sharma, ex-MLA Kamlapat Arya and Gulab Singh Kirar got membership of the Congress. Welcome to Congress family," the Madhya Pradesh unit of the party had said in a tweet.
However, the tweet was deleted shortly afterwards.
Ostensibly scrambling for cover over the flip-flop, the Congress on Thursday clarified that Kirar was never inducted into the party.
"Kirar did not join the Congress on Tuesday. We have not given him membership. He was putting up in a hotel where Rahulji (Gandhi, who was on a two-day tour of the state on October 29-30) had stayed and was thus, seen around (Gandhi) that day in Indore," state Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza said, when asked if the party had disowned Kirar over his alleged involvement in the Vyapam scam.
Addressing a public meeting at Khargone on October 30, Gandhi had alleged that the "family" of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was involved in the Vyapam scam and said he was ready to face defamation cases for his remarks.
The Vyapam scam, which was unearthed in 2013, allegedly pertains to fraudulent practices in conducting professional exams and making appointments for government jobs through the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB).
The Congress has made "corruption" under the Chouhan government its main poll plank in Madhya Pradesh.
When contacted, Kirar said he was a Congressman earlier too before joining the BJP. He said he had returned to his parent party on October 30. "I returned to the Congress-fold in Indore on Tuesday. I shook hands with Rahulji, Kamal Nathji (state Congress chief) and Jyotiraditya Scindia (state Congress campaign committee chief) and became a member of the Congress once again," he claimed.
Asked about his experience in the BJP, Kirar said, "I was under the impression that Chouhan would work for the betterment of his Kirar community." Kirar said he decided to return to the Congress because Chouhan had "failed" to work for the community.
The Congress had hit out at the chief minister in early 2015, when he shared the stage with Kirar at a function of the OBC community at Raisen after the Vyapam FIR was lodged.
Kirar is a former member of the Madhya Pradesh Backward Classes and Minority Welfare Commission and enjoyed the status of a Minister of State in the state government till his expulsion from the BJP in 2015, when he was named by the CBI in an FIR linked to the Vyapam scam.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Kirar and his son were involved in alleged irregularities in the entrance examination conducted by Vyapam — an acronym for the Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal — for post-graduate courses in medicine in 2011.
When contacted, state BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal said Kirar had no association with the ruling party. "Kirar has not been with us and his cross-over to the Congress will have no bearing on us given that the chief minister is from the same community as that of Kirar's and is popular among his community members," he said.
Both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress have been trying to win over the OBC community, which accounts for around 50 per cent of the state's voters.