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Weathercock Bhadana, Who Made Manmohan Livid With Congress ‘Custom’, Flies Back Into Nest

A self-proclaimed 'Gujjar Imam', Avtar Singh Bhadana has been a fascinating political player.

Rasheed Kidwai |

Updated:February 16, 2019, 12:12 PM IST
Weathercock Bhadana, Who Made Manmohan Livid With Congress ‘Custom’, Flies Back Into Nest
File photo of Avtar Singh Bhadana.

Elections is also a season of politically migratory birds. Avtar Singh Bhadana, BJP MLA from Meerapur in Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, has returned to the Congress fold after quitting the grand old party days after 2014 parliamentary polls.

Bhadana was Congress MP from Faridabad twice between 2004 and 2014. In the past, he been Congress MP from Meerut too.

A self-proclaimed “Gujjar Imam,” Bhadana has been a fascinating political player. Closer to 2004 general elections, he had drawn Dr Manmohan Singh’s wrath for attempting to bribe the good doctor’s driver.

Subsequently, Bhadana, who was vying to be a junior minister in Manmohan regime between 2004 and 2014, could not figure out why Dr Singh was so upset with him.

Bhadana was part of AICC secretariat’s other backward classes department when he decided to pay a courtesy visit to Singh’s 9, Safdarjung Lane residence. Singh was heading AICC’s department of economic affairs then.

When Bhadana came out of Singh’s living room, he took out some crisp Rs 500 notes, thrusting them in Singh’s driver’s pocket. Before the driver could react, Bhadana left in his swanky SUV. Singh’s driver rushed inside to inform of what happened.

Singh was reportedly livid. He did not have Bhadana’s mobile number but quickly fished it out from Lok Sabha MPs directory.

Bhadana was told to return immediately.

When Bhadana’s car entered Singh’s porch, the economist was waiting and handed over currency notes with a look that could kill. Bhadana could not fathom why Singh was agitated as he was merely following a Congress ‘custom.’

According to his close associates, it was an “established practice” to offer “nazrana” to the personal staff and attendants of senior party leaders like Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, Manmohan Singh etc. known for probity in public life.

It was assumed that due to “clean image” of their masters, these attendants required “nazrana” and “kharcha paani” for survival.

Between 2004 and 2014, Bhadana kept trying to become a junior minister in Singh’s council of ministers but his name was invariably struck off. By 2012-13, a restless Bhadana started pitching for Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister.

Bhadana has been passionate and a weathercock. He was drafted in politics by Haryana’s Bhajan Lal who made him a junior minister in state in 1988. By the time 1989 general elections were announced, Bhadana was in Janata Dal taking on Congress’ Rajesh Pilot from Dausa, Rajasthan.

Pilot remained Bhadana’s target as an influential Gujjar leader. He turned to the Congress to win Faridabad Lok Sabha. In 1998, his patience gave up with Sitaram Keri denied him Congress ticket. Bhadana switched to the Samajwadi party but lost Lok Sabha polls from Faridabad.

Sonia Gandhi took over as party president and Bhadana returned to the parent organisation winning nomination from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Since few had seen him in the western Uttar Pradesh town, it was said that his look-alike brother Kartar Singh Bhadana had campaigned extensively posing himself as Avtar.

Political grapevine in Meerut had it that each morning, Bhadana brothers would fan out in opposite directions of the parliamentary seat posing as the candidate. The strategy worked but in 2004, Bhadana decided to go back to Faridabad which gave him two back to back electoral victories.

He faced a crushing defeat by over 4.67 lakh votes. Bhadana left the Congress in a huff and joined Indian National Lok Dal. In 2016, he was among BJP’s 40 star campaigners for February 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls and a successful candidate from Meerapur, Muzzafarnagar constituency.

In spite of serving four terms in the Lok Sabha, Bhadana was not heard much in parliament. The uncharitable view was that it was due to his inability to communicate without a liberal dose of expletives.

(The author is visiting fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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