BJP veteran leader and Kangra MP Shanta Kumar may have triggered a fresh political storm by his “party hangs head in shame” remarks in an open letter to BJP national chief Amit Shah, but controversies have always shadowed him in the past too.
It’s not the first time the former Himachal CM and union minister have been involved in controversy owing to his “bold” remarks. Whether it were his remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on theGodhra ri ots or the party’s functioning from time to time, he has drawn the ire of the BJP’s top leadership for his outbursts.
He was among the firsts within the party to crusade against Modi over the post-Godhra riots in 2002. Severely criticizing the latter for failing to control violence, Shanta had called for Modi’s resignation stating, “What happened thereafter (Godhra train burning incident) would shake the conscience of any right thinking and self-respecting man. If being on top of Form I was in his place I would have quit. As things transpired, the Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh (RSS) expressed strong disapproval of his statement and eventually engineered his forced exit as minister of consumer affairs & food from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet. Later on Shanta was largely blamed for the BJP’s debacle in Himachal Pradesh.
In 2011 he wrote to senior leaders including LK Advani, who was then the party’s national chief, and Nitin Gadkari seeking removal of Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who was named in the illegal mining scam. At that time he stated that his continuance in the office was tarnishing the party’s image. A few days later a beleaguered Yeddyurappa resigned from his post as well as the BJP and moved on to form a new party.
A year later, Shanta left the BJP government in Himachal red faced, saying, “The party leadership in Himachal Pradesh is living in intoxication of power and I doubt whether the party can retain power.” He also alleged large scale corruption in the regime of his bête noir, Prem Kumar Dhumal. The BJP lost the elections and the rival group put the onus on him.
Before the 2014 general election Shanta announced his retirement from active politics and refused to contest elections but took a U-turn saying the party had sought his services and heaped praises on Modi, whom he had denounced in 2002, calling him a “miraculous” man. But it is a fact that like other senior leaders including Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta too has been living in isolation since the emergence of Modi, though he heaped praise on the latter’s “Gujarat model of development”.
However, neither the government nor the party has paid much heed to Shanta. The food ministry rejected the Food Corporation of India’s restructuring committee that he headed and suggested a cut in the number of beneficiaries.