UP politicians give chameleons a run for their money

By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow : Changing their hues comes naturally to politicians. They switch parties — and ideologies — with bewildering ease. And as the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections draw close, they are changing colours so fast as to give chameleons tough competition!

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Sample this: Swamy Prasad Maurya, a former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) general secretary and also the Leader of Opposition in the assembly, was known for his acerbic and caustic comments against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leaders. His pinpricks hurt even the most powerful, ranging from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to party president Amit Shah. He spared no one in his efforts to please his party chief ‘Behen’ Mayawati.

All that changed this week as the powerful Kurmi leader walked into the saffron fold and vowed to ensure a majority BJP government in the state.

On Wednesday, at his maiden appearance at the BJP state headquarters on Vidhan Sabha Marg, the bearded Maurya eulogised Modi and Shah, whom he had, on many occasions in the past, dubbed the “devil duo”, “bhukhe bhediye” (hungry for votes) and “nautankibaaz” (jokers). His “change of heart” has apparently come about because of Modi’s pro-Dalit and pro-development policies.

He however fails to explain how the “merchants of hatred and masters of rioting” have suddenly come to acquire such godly virtues. An aide says “it’s all rajneeti” (politics) and suggests that “one must not stick to the past”.

Even the BJP strategists are refusing to comment on the embrace as it was Maurya who had not only abused the party’s leaders but also spoken sacrilegiously about Hindu gods like Lakshmi and Ganesh on September 21, 2014. A case was also registered against him and the BJP had hit the streets on the issue.

For the BJP, which showed one of its senior leaders, Daya Shankar Singh, the door for making disparaging comments against BSP chief Mayawati, the rose-shower welcome for the abusive Maurya has raised many an eyebrow here.

On the same day, three Muslim legislators of the Congress switched to the BSP, claiming a similar change of heart. Mohammed Muslim, a legislator from Tiloi in Amethi, who was till now the chief whip of the party in the assembly, did a volte face after joining the BSP and called Sonia Gandhi a leader “who cannot see with her eyes and hear from the ears”.

Qasim Ali, the scion of the Rampur royalty, has changed his allegiance twice in the last five years. Between 2007 ans 2012, he was with Mayawati but left her and joined the Congress on the eve of the polls to again become a legislator.

This week, he walked back into the BSP, saying his “eyes have now opened and the misunderstandings have been cleared”. It took some five years for these to clear, however.

Nawazish Alam Khan, a ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) legislator from Budhana in Muzaffarnagar, has a new ideology dawning upon him now and he has ditched Mulayam Singh Yadav for arch rival Mayawati.

He now says that he was “suffocated” in the SP and is now looking for fresh air in the BSP. It is a different matter that most leaders who have left the BSP have alleged similar suffocation as the reason for leaving.

Not long ago, old socialist hands Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma, looking for political relevance and rehabilitation, walked into the SP after a six-year break. During their period of exile, both leaders had hurled choicest expletives on the SP and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

From calling him a “sardar of goondaas” (leader of ruffians) to a criminal and an ISI agent who takes money from terror groups, Amar Singh and Verma went ballistic. Now back in the party and in the Rajya Sabha, the duo is once again singing paeans of the socialist ‘neta ji’ (Mulayam Singh Yadav).

Even the SP, which called Amar Singh a “pimp and a dalaal” is now happy calling him an “adarniya neta” (respected leader) who was sorely missed.

There have been many similar instances in the past. In the 1990s Naresh Agarwal broke away from the Congress overnight to form his Loktantrik Congress Party, extended support to Kalyan Singh and the BJP and was part of the government. He later ditched the saffron party to join the SP, then walked into the BSP and now is again a Rajya Sabha member of the SP.

Jagdambika Pal was a Congressman all through his career but joined the BJP in 2014 and is now a Lok Sabha MP.

The new generation of politicians is seemingly keeping alive the tradition of these turncoat politicians.