Rajya Sabha member Neeraj Shekhar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Rajya Sabha member Neeraj Shekhar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

‘Many others from SP will come if BJP speaks to them’

In an interview with Sunetra Choudhury, Shekhar says that many more significant exits from the SP may be imminent.
Hindustan Times | By Sunetra.Choudhury
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2019 10:19 AM IST

Rajya Sabha member Neeraj Shekhar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday, deserting the Samajwadi Party (SP), in a body blow to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. Son of former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar, Shekar accused Yadav of being inaccessible in the last few months. In an interview with Sunetra Choudhury, Shekhar says that many more significant exits from the SP may be imminent.

What led to your resignation? Is it because you were denied a Lok Sabha seat?

It is one of the reasons. When the SP and the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) were firming up the coalition and when the Ballia seat came in the Samajwadi quota, I asked Akhileshji who will get it. This was in January and he said that I would fight from there because my father had always fought from there and so had I. I kept working there for the next two months and heard no more. I then met him again and said, if you have a problem that I am in the Rajya Sabha, then let my wife Sushma fight from there . Akhileshji assured me that Ballia is mine. He had now said this twice, so I was confident, but he wasn’t announcing it...I again met him and this time he said I will meet you at your father’s birth anniversary on 17th April and then announce (it). Then he didn’t meet me, but called everyone else who wanted a ticket from Ballia at 4pm on 28th April. He consulted me alone again where I requested him again and he said he would let me know. He didn’t announce any name and it was the last day as nominations would close on April 29, I called at 8pm and those that were there in his office said that Akhileshji had given the ticket to someone else. I felt terrible that he didn’t even tell me. If he had, it would have reassured me and I would have felt OK. Since then, there has been no contact or conversation with Akhileshji. I thought he would contact me after he came back from abroad but no word. I can say today that everything that they did for me was thanks to the party and Netaj (SP patriarch and Yadav’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav), because of how much he respected my father. I will always be grateful to Netaji but (it was the) first time in 42 years that our family didn’t contest from there.

But SP leaders say that they knew you were leaving the party when you didn’t invite them personally for your father’s birth anniversary anniversary event?

They are wrong. I invite many to those events and none personally; I send invites.

SP also says that Akhilesh Yadav feels RS MPs should work in the organisation and not fight elections?

He should have told me that then. Chanderpal (Chandrapal Singh Yadav), Rewathi Raman ( Rewati Raman Singh), Javed Ali Khan and me, we all as RS members wanted LS tickets. He said no to all three of them, why couldn’t he do the same with me. He misled me for months.

These names are said to also be exiting the SP with you?

They may, they may not. There are many in the party who are dissatisfied.

Why? What’s the problem in the party?

Disconnect . I don’t want to name them but they are disconnected. Netaji used to meet all, lowest to highest. An MP could scold Netaji too. But now all feel disconnected for the past 2-3 years.

You can’t meet Akhilesh Yadav?

You can’t say what you want to, to him. He meets but in a group, but you can’t share your thoughts in a group. So many are unhappy and may leave. I think if the BJP leadership talks to them, then many will join

As an insider, tell us what was the inside story of the BSP-SP breakup?

The coalition happened because everyone wanted to defeat the BJP, not because they wanted to give good leadership. People didn’t accept this and that is one of the main factors of (my) joining BJP too. I was also one of those who opposed the BJP but this election taught me that you can’t deny the truth-- the truth is that the public accepts that it is PM (Narenda) Modi who will lead the country to progress.

So regional parties like the BSP and SP cannot counter this phenomenon?

There’s one example I always give of the difference. The day Prime Minister came to Ballia, that day Akhileshji also campaigned there. Akhileshji had two meetings which were 50 kms apart and after doing those, he went back to Lucknow. The PM had 5 or 6 meetings. He’s the PM, he is 20 years older, but doing six meetings in a day. That’s the difference. At the dinner for MPs, it was his greatness that he said “Neeraj, what are you doing? Come over and you’ll get respect here.’’ Here was the PM saying this to me and my leader didn’t want to speak to me

SP leaders said you didn’t go to the Ballia meeting with Akhilesh?

I didn’t go. He called me from the stage but I didn’t take his call. That’s because I also have some self-respect. The candidate of the area also never came to me for help with campaigning.

Your ideology and your father’s, isn’t it different from BJP’s?

I keep getting asked that question. I believe that my father wasn’t against the RSS {Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s mentor), although he didn’t agree with them on everything. He has also joined hands with them on campaigning for Swadeshi Jagran Manch. I believe we are all working for the country.

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