Cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad clarified his position on Thursday morning, asking the Prime Minister what mistake he committed to attract suspension from the BJP for indiscipline and anti-party activities.
The BJP on Wednesday suspended Azad, its MP for Darbhanga in Bihar, who defied orders to stop a tirade over alleged corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) that finance minister Arun Jaitley had headed for more than a decade.
“If speaking the truth is a crime, then I will keep committing this crime,” the suspended parliamentarian told reporters in Gujarat’s biggest city.
He got support from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who on Thursday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should answer on Azad’s suspension.
“Modiji said ‘na khaunga na khaane dunga’. Now, when his MP pointed out corruption and he has been suspended, ab Modiji jawaab de,” he said.
The 56-year-old former cricketer remained defiant as he rejected the party’s charges against him, saying he never named any individual but highlighted corruption in the DDCA.
As an MP, Azad said, he had raised concerns over other cases of corruption in the BCCI as well.
Azad said he had no intention to embarrass the party or “backstab” anyone but demanded that the DDCA case be solved in three months.
“I want to know if I have been suspended because I raised my voice against corruption in the DDCA … I would want Modiji to look into this and tell me what my fault is, I want specific answers.”
He said he had received notice about his suspension from the party. “I will respond to it. (BJP leader) Subramanian Swamy has told me that he will help me draft it.”
The BJP’s crackdown came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out strongly in defence of Jaitley who is under attack of the Congress and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) seeking to link him with alleged irregularities in the DDCA.
The AAP on Thursday said the action against Azad is another bid by the BJP-led Union government to protect Jaitley.
Azad chose to join the opposition camp in stoking the controversy inside and outside Parliament despite party president Amit Shah cautioning him on Friday.
The action against Azad was also intended to send a strong signal to other dissident leaders who have been targeting the party leadership in the wake of the BJP’s debacle in the recent Bihar assembly elections.
Azad told a TV channel that he would approach party veterans, such as LK Advani and Mulri Manohar Joshi, to explain his case. These two leaders had targeted the party leadership recently, asking for introspection after the Bihar loss.
“Wait and watch my next move,” Azad told reporters.
Azad’s suspension came within hours of fellow-Bihar politician Shatrughan Sinha – who had also targeted the party leadership in the past – throwing his weight behind the former cricketer.
Jaitley has filed a Rs 10 crore criminal defamation case and civil defamation suit in the Delhi high court against Kejriwal and other AAP leaders. The Patiala house court has set January 5 as the next date of hearing for the criminal defamation case.
Acclaimed criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani will represent Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the lawsuits.
With input from agencies