Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader R.P.N. Singh joined the BJP on Monday, terming his move to the saffron party as “ der aaye durust aye ” (better late than never). He joined the BJP at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi flanked by Education Minister and BJP in charge of Uttar Pradesh, Dharmendra Pradhan, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindhia (who had preceded Mr. Singh in moving from the Congress to the BJP) and information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur.
Mr. Singh had earlier in the day quit the Congress, and stated in a presser at his joining that while he had put in 32 years in the Congress it hasn’t remained “the party that I joined or the ideology that I follow” he termed his joining the BJP as better late than never and lauded the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr. Pradhan, who formally welcomed Mr Singh into the party said that he had, ever since 2004 when he had himself been elected to the Lok Sabha, maintained that both Mr Scindhia and Mr Singh should join the BJP. “I am happy that both are with us now,” he said.
The BJP is hoping that Mr Singh, who belongs to the Sainthwar sub caste among non-Yadav OBC Kurmis, and is also the scion of the princely state of Padrauna will help ameliorate some of the damage from the exodus of non-Yadav OBC MLAs of the BJP, especially former minister Swami Prasad Maurya among that community and in eastern Uttar Pradesh in particular. “There are around 60,000-70,000 voters belonging to the Sainthwar community in Gorakhpur alone, and R.P.N. Singh’s entry will help us reach out to this community. Swami Prasad Maurya has bitten off more than he can chew,” said a senior Union minister involved in the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh campaign.
The Congress on its part termed Mr. Singh’s exit, a day after he had been included in a list of star campaigners released by the party, as the actions of a “coward”. Party spokesperson Supriya Srinate said, “I would only say that the kind of battle of ideology, the kind of fight that the Indian National Congress is putting up across the country and particularly, in a state like UP is a battle against the government’s resources, is a battle against agencies, it is a battle of ideology, it is a battle for truth. To fight a battle as strongly pitched as this on, you have to fight it with courage. You cannot be a coward and fight this battle.”
There are some apprehensions in Congress circles that the party’s coalition government in Jharkhand with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha may also be in danger as Mr Singh has been handling party affairs there. It is not clear whether Mr Singh will fight the Assembly polls in UP, but his addition to the BJP ranks has definitely created a major talking point.