Naresh Agrawal joins BJP, says SP rejected him for ‘those who dance and work in films’

Naresh Agrawal did not name actor-turned-MP Jaya Bachchan but the BJP quickly distanced itself from his remarks and said the party respected people from all fields and welcomed them in politics.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2018 11:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Naresh Agarwal joins BJP,Naresh Agarwal,BJP
Former Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal joined BJP during a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi, India, on Monday. (Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal switched sides to the BJP on Monday and also managed to embarrass his new party with controversial remarks against actor-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan on Day One.

Agrawal, who is known to shoot his mouth off, quit the SP after he was denied another Rajya Sabha stint, with the party picking Bachchan for a fourth term in the Upper House.

“My comparison was drawn with those working in films... I was rejected for those who dance in films, work in films,” the 66-year-old Agrawal, whose Rajya Sabha term ends April, said at a press conference at the BJP headquarters.

He did not name Bachchan but his remarks left the BJP leaders on the dais squirming. BJP spokesman Sambit Patra quickly distanced from Agrawal’s remarks and said the party respected people from all fields and welcomed them in politics.

But the remarks didn’t go down well with senior BJP leader and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. “Shri Naresh Agarwal has joined Bharatiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachhan ji are improper and unacceptable,” she tweeted a few hours after Agrawal joined the party in the presence of railways minister Piyush Goyal and others.

Agrawal said he remained grateful to SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and his cousin, Ram Gopal Yadav, but claimed his former party was sliding and forging alliances to remain relevant.

He denied setting any condition for joining the BJP and said he “wanted to be in a national party to serve the nation in true sense”.

Agrawal is not new to controversy. Last July while speaking in the Rajya Sabha, he likened Hindu gods and goddesses to alcohol, triggering an uproar.

His remarks on Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer on death row in Pakistan, too, had embarrassed the SP.

A seven-term legislator and former minister, Agrawal started his political career with the Congress. He broke ranks to form the Loktantrik Congress in 1997 to become a minister in the BJP government in UP under Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh.

He then joined the Samajwadi Party, held ministerial portfolio in Mulayam Singh Yadav government before becoming a Rajya Sabha member in 2012.

Agrawal is known for his “political management skills” that would be tested when Uttar Pradesh MLAs will vote for 10 Rajya Sabha seats on March 23.

The BJP has fielded eight candidates and supports Anil Agrawal, a close aide of Naresh. Agarwal said his MLA son would vote in favour of the BJP.

The BJP hopes that his “contacts” in rival parties would help it secure support of 18 other MLAs required to win the ninth Rajya Sabha seat.

If the BJP pulls it off it would mean a defeat for Bahujan Samaj Party’s Bhimrao Ambedkar, who is being backed by SP as well as the Congress.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 11:00 IST