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The rise and fall of a ‘bright’ politician

delhi Updated: Apr 10, 2009 01:34 IST
Avishek G Dastidar
Avishek G Dastidar
Hindustan Times
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For over two decades, he successfully outfoxed the ghosts from his past.

Criminal investigations, an inquiry panel and even countless media reports notwithstanding, Congress MP Sajjan Kumar always emerged out of the political graves dug for him at different stages of his career.

But on Thursday, the ghosts finally caught up with him. At 64, he was staring at his political obituary.

His Ashoka Road bungalow, otherwise abuzz with campaign-related activities aimed at securing the South Delhi seat, was quiet. Kumar, who liked having journalists over for sumptuous lunches, locked himself inside, not to be disturbed by anyone.

While his detractors will insist that he had it coming, his followers will probably take heart from the fact that a 33-year veteran in politics, Kumar has gone through this before.

“It has been a long journey, from a tea stall on Ajmal Khan Road to the MP’s residence,” said a senior party insider.

Once a roadside tea seller, Kumar, then in Youth Congress, was handpicked by Sanjay Gandhi during the Janata Party movement in the late 1970s and given a ticket to contest the Madipur corporation seat.

Kumar bagged the seat and since then, there was no looking back. His Jat identity and closeness to the right people got him a ticket in 1980 for the rural Outer Delhi seat.

Kumar shocked everyone, when he defeated former Congress legend Choudhary Brahm Prakash (Delhi’s first CM), then with the Lok Dal.

“At 35, Kumar was looking at a bright future in the Congress,” said a party source.

But then came November 1984. The anti-Sikh carnage in Delhi threw a different light on Kumar with allegations that he played an “active part” in the massacre of the Sikhs. While the allegations could never be proved, they did make Kumar a political pariah and flagged the beginning of his end.

“In political exile for seven years, Kumar came close to the then Delhi Congress president HKL Bhagat and secured a ticket to run for Outer Delhi again in 1991. Then on, it’s has been quick ups and downs,” said the party insider.

In 1991, Kumar defeated BJP heavyweight Sahib Singh Verma by 75,000 votes only to be beaten by KL Sharma in 1996. But in 2004, Kumar came back by defeating Verma once again.

In 2009, the party asked him to run for South Delhi and it looked as if his past was behind him. But as it turned out, a Sikh journalist called Jarnail Singh attending a press conference by P. Chidambaram on Wednesday had other plans.