The government’s decision to confer the Bharat Ratna to late Madan Mohan Malaviya has triggered a political war of sorts between the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, a constituency named after the freedom fighter-educationist.
AAP’s outgoing MLA from the seat, Somnath Bharti, has accused Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay of trying to usurp the freedom fighter’s legacy. “He [Upadhyay] tried to get the police to remove me from a government event to remember Malaviyaji on Thursday. Power minister Piyush Goyal asked me to remove my party cap, while his party workers proudly wore theirs. Is Malaviyaji Bharat Ratna or BJP Ratna,” asked Bharti.
“It was an MCD function in my constituency. First they didn’t invite me and monopolised the event, filling the venue with BJP posters. Then they disrespected me when I tried to offer tributes to Malaviyaji,” he added.
Upadhyay, who is said to be keen to fight the assembly elections from Malviya Nagar, said: “We allowed Bharti to garland Malaviyaji’s statue. He was told to remove his cap because it was not an AAP event.” Upadhyay is a municipal councilor from a Malviya Nagar ward.
Both parties say they will use the Bharat Ratna’s name to win the constituency that Bharti won in 2013, defeating BJP’s Arti Mehra.
“BJP doesn’t know history. They do not know his ideals. They are just trying to use his name. AAP knows what he stood for. We follow his ideals and propagate them in our campaign,” Bharti said.
Though AAP has retained Bharti as its Malviya Nagar candidate, the BJP has not named anyone. But this has not kept Upadhyay from announcing projects in the constituency. He accompanied Goyal to the constituency on Thursday when the minister announced a project of LED street lights. A day before, Upadhyay dedicated a park with ‘a walking track and a world-class lighting system’ to the locals.
A two-time president of Congress, Malaviya was also among the first leaders of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha.
“Malviyaji was a great nationalist, set high standards in his work for education. Everything we do is dedicated to him,” said Upadhyay.
Bharti has mixed feelings. “This Bharat Ratna is special because my constituency is named after him. But BJP is misappropriating his name to the hilt and is running a campaign as if they have done a favour to the constituency through the award.”