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Was Naresh Agrawal Denied Rajya Sabha Ticket by Akhilesh to Arrest Potential Power Imbalance in SP?

Agrawal, the fair-weather neta of UP politics was in stiff competition with Jaya Bachchan for the lone Samajwadi Party RS seat up for grabs in the biennial elections.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:March 13, 2018, 1:05 PM IST
Was Naresh Agrawal Denied Rajya Sabha Ticket by Akhilesh to Arrest Potential Power Imbalance in SP?
Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agrawal, who lost out in the race for re-nomination to the upper House to Jaya Bachchan, on Monday quit the Samajwadi Party and joined the BJP. (File photo/PTI)

New Delhi: Naresh Agrawal called up a Trinamool Congress MP last month to confirm reports of Jaya Bachchan getting Rajya Sabha nomination from West Bengal.

Agrawal, the fair-weather neta of UP politics was in stiff competition with Bachchan for the lone Samajwadi Party RS seat up for grabs in the biennial elections.

“Mera to 99.9 percent ho gaya hai," a confident Agrawal told the TMC leader, attempting to cross-check media reports on Bachchan being sent to the Upper House from West Bengal with Mamata Banerjee’s support.

To his dismay and surprise, Naresh Agrawal realised the prospective possibility of the impossible in politics. A month later, Jaya Bachchan beat Naresh Agrawal to secure a third term in the Rajya Sabha.

Naresh Agrawal, son of freedom fighter and Congress leader SC Agrawal, won his first assembly election from Hardoi in central UP in mid-eighties.

He, along with Pramod Tiwari and Jagdambika Pal, was part of the young and aggressive Congress leaders seeking to secure a place for themselves in the state politics.

After Congress’ downfall in UP in Mandal-Kamandal era, Agrawal was the first one to jump ship, along with Jagdambika Pal, and float Lok Tantrik Congress with more than three dozen MLAs to support a minority Kalyan Singh government in Uttar Pradesh assembly.

In the process, both Agrawal and Pal realised their long cherished dream of becoming a minister in UP government.

It is another matter that a few months later, Pal attempted to anoint himself as the chief minister. Grapevine in Lucknow then was that Naresh Agrawal led Pal down the garden path. Short of numbers, in 24 hours Pal had to relinquish office. Naresh Agrawal returned to Kalyan Singh government in no time as Power Minister and undisputed leader in Lok Tantrik Congress.

As the leader of the party holding reins of power in UP, Agrawal, perhaps, was the most powerful leader in UP after the chief minister. For many years, he was minister for power. He could send MPs to the Rajya Sabha in alliance with the BJP (the first RS MP from Lok Tantrik Congress quota was Rajeev Shukla).

When Rajnath Singh became UP CM, he sacked Agrawal ahead of the 2002 elections.

Naresh Agrawal later shifted allegiance to the BSP and won a RS nomination from the party. In Hardoi, however, he started to groom his son Nitin for a role in state politics. Ahead of the 2012 UP polls, Agrawal again switched party to join SP and won a RS nomination for himself and a ministerial berth for his son in Akhilesh Yadav government. In the SP family tussle for control over the party, Agrawal stood by Akhilesh and was seen as a close aide of Mulayam Singh’s cousin Ram Gopal Yadav.

So why did SP choose to nominate Jaya Bachchan instead of someone who was on the right side of the divide during the Yadav family feud?

Sources say, after Shivpal Yadav was sidelined and Amar Singh expelled, Ram Gopal emerged as the main point-person for the SP in the national capital. Agrawal was seen to be a close lieutenant of Ram Gopal in the Delhi circles. Last year, Agrawal also hosted a party at a five-star hotel in Delhi to celebrate Ram Gopal’s birthday. Top leaders from government and opposition, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, attended the bash.

In deciding its RS nominee, both Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh had sought to correct a potential power imbalance in the SP.

Sources say, that Naresh Agrawal was pretty confident of bagging another term with Ram Gopal’s backing. When it was communicated from Lucknow that Jaya Bachchan was being nominated, the onerous task of breaking the news to Agrawal was entrusted to a party MP from Western UP.

Agrawal apparently was flabbergasted on hearing he has been denied another term in Rajya Sabha. After being silent for about 10 minutes, he gathered his thoughts and decided to move on.

In a conversation with this reporter many years back, Agrawal recalled the day he was sacked by Rajnath Singh from the UP government ahead of 2002 polls.

As a powerful minister, his house at tony Mall Avenue in Lucknow used to be swarmed by workers and hangers-on. Out of power, not a soul was at his gate the next day.

“I was so lonely that I had to ask my friends from Hardoi to come over for a couple of days and give me company,” recalled Agrawal many years later.

Slowly, he crawled back to survive and fight another day. This time around he took just one week in seeking a new destination in the BJP.

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| Edited by: Puja Menon
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