Giridhar Gamang, former Odisha chief minister and one of the country’s best known tribal leaders, on Friday joined BJP after meeting party president Amit Shah in New Delhi.
“Yes, I have joined BJP. It is the reality, there is no speculation. I will take up any responsibility that is given to me by the party,” Gamang said.
Gamang and his son Sishir Gamang met Shah in the presence of Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram and Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan. Sishir said the tribal leader’s formal induction into the party would be in Bhubaneswar.
“BJP will get a boost in tribal areas, especially southern Odisha, after Gamang’s induction into the party,” Oram said.
Gamang, 72, had resigned from Congress on May 30 citing “humiliation” and “loss of self-respect” as the reason, thereby ending 43 years of association with the grand old party of India.
“Since 1999 I have been humiliated in public for bringing down the Vajpayee government with a single vote of mine. Till today neither my party nor my leaders have come out with the truth and protected me from public criticism. I feel that my loyalty to the party has turned into a liability for the party,” Gamang said in his letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
On April 17, 1999, Gamang voted against the NDA government during confidence motion moved by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, bringing it down. But the “single vote” became controversial because though Gamang was then chief minister of Odisha, he was still the MP from Koraput Lok Sabha and had not become a member of the state assembly.
Gamang has since then claimed that the Vajpayee government lost the confidence motion not because of his vote but due to cross voting by Saifuddin Soz of the National Conference, who went against the whip of his party and voted against the motion. Soz is now in the Congress.
Gamang has been a nine time Congress MP from Koraput Lok Sabha constituency between 1972 and 2004. He also held ministerial posts in Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narsimha Rao governments.
He was the chief minister of Odisha from February 18, 1999 to December 6, 1999 and resigned after the Super Cyclone in the state that claimed about 10,000 lives.