Rita Joshi & Jitendra Singh Babloo

By Pankaj Shah

Lucknow: The induction of former BSP MLA Jitendra Singh Babloo — key accused in arson and torching of the house of then UP Congress Committee chief, now BJP MP, Rita Bahuguna Joshi — into BJP has trained the spotlight on the saffron party’s outreach to Thakur community which accounts for 7% of the voting population in UP. The development gained political significance in the backdrop of the Opposition, primarily SP and BSP, positioning themselves as benefactors of Brahmins.
Party sources said, Jitendra’s induction should be attributed to his influence in Ayodhya, the nerve centre of Hindutva politics. As a matter of fact, BJP suffered losses in Ayodhya during zila panchayat member elections recently.

Jitendra’s induction into the saffron political outfit coincided with BSP chief Mayawati’s charge that BJP was rattled by her party’s statewide Brahmin conventions. While BSP supremo has been reaching out to Brahmins through her confidante and party MP Satish Chandra Mishra, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav organised a cycle yatra on Thursday to coincide with the birth anniversary of party stalwart Janeshwar Mishra, a Brahmin. Akhilesh had earlier whipped out the Brahmin card by announcing installation of Parshuram statues in all districts.

In contrast, experts said, BJP has been treading a cautious path by not going overtly to consolidate the Brahmin community, which accounts for 13% of the voting population and has traditionally been voting for BJP. Jitendra’s induction, nevertheless, has not gone down well with the grassroots cadre, who perceive it as a move to arm the opposition and put BJP in a tight spot vis-a-vis Brahmin consolidation. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, whose house was set ablaze by Jitendra, is a Brahmin. The opposition has already been accusing the BJP regime as anti-Brahmin.

While Joshi has demanded terminating membership of Jitendra Singh, highly placed sources in BJP told TOI that the latter has been hobnobbing with the saffron party since 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He was, however, not taken into the party as Joshi was contesting Lok Sabha elections as a candidate from Allahabad. A senior BJP leader confirmed Jitendra’s induction was again put off a year ago given his criminal antecedents.

As per the affidavit submitted to the Election Commission in 2017 assembly polls, Babloo faces 60 criminal charges, including attempt to murder, rioting, kidnapping, theft, robbery, dacoity and breach of peace.

Babloo was elected as BSP MLA from Bikapur in Ayodhya in 2007 assembly elections, which saw Mayawati forming the government with an absolute majority for the first time after effecting a social engineering formula amalgamating dalits with upper castes. He had then defeated SP’s Sita Ram Nishad. Babloo was, however, denied a ticket by the BSP chief in 2012 assembly elections, following which he switched over to Peace Party. Even as Mayawati expelled him, he was disqualified from UP assembly under anti-defection law.

Jitendra’s political fortunes, however, began dipping. In 2012 assembly elections Babloo contested as a Peace Party candidate, but slipped to fourth position, losing his seat to SP’s strongman, Mitra Sen Yadav. Mayawati took Babloo back in the party and fielded him from Bikapur in the 2017 UP assembly elections, but lost.

This story first appeared on timesofindia.indiatimes.com