The BJP on Wednesday suspended Babubhai Katara and promised the “severest exemplary action” against him to contain the potential damage his arrest could have on the party’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh.
The police had earlier in the day detained Katara with a woman and her relative for trying to pass them off as his wife and son, while boarding a flight to Toronto.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh called for details of the MP’s arrest and indicated that he would be expelled from the party after disciplinary proceedings. The Congress demanded a criminal investigation. “The case involves serious offences like impersonation, forgery and an immigration racket,” said party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
In Gujarat, BJP leaders looked suitably discomfited. They said it was a serious matter for which suitable action should be taken. The party’s state unit president Purshottam Rupala said that since Katara was an MP, only the central unit of the party could take action against him. “We can only recommend action.”
The state Congress, on the other hand, said the incident exposed the BJP’s tall claims of morality. Pradesh Congress Committee chief Bharat Solanki said the “BJP’s mask has come off and the party stands exposed”. He alleged the episode was proof the BJP was using criminals for political purposes. Congress Legislature Party leader Arjun Modhwadia demanded apologies from Rajnath and Chief Minister Narendra Modi for all the incidents of corruption their leaders have been involved in.
Modi, on a visit to Japan, was not available for comment.
Katara was elected to the Lok Sabha from Dahod tribal constituency in 1999 and 2004. His son Bhavesh too was arrested and released on bail months back for his role in post-Godhra riot cases. Sources in Dahod said relations between Katara and his wife were strained.