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Kept at arm’s length for years, Gopal Kanda gets into the NDA tent

Updated - September 30, 2023 03:28 pm IST

Published - July 19, 2023 11:29 pm IST - GURUGRAM

Cold-shouldered by the BJP despite his repeated avowals of support, the controversial Haryana Lokhit Party leader figured among the list of invitees to the ruling alliance’s meeting in Delhi on Tuesday, indicating a churn in the State’s politics ahead of polls

Snubbed by the Haryana BJP for over four years, controversial Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP) president and Sirsa MLA Gopal Kanda, facing abetment to suicide charges in flight attendant Geetika Sharma’s death case among a host of others, figured among the list of invitees to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) meeting in Delhi on Tuesday.

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Though he skipped the meeting due to prior commitments, his party’s inclusion in the NDA not only marks a change in the BJP’s stance but also hints at the evolving political equations in the State ahead of polls next year.

Tactical distance

The Haryana BJP has maintained a tactical distance from Mr. Kanda all these years, not offering him any position though he had announced unconditional support to the Manohar Lal-led BJP government in the State.

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The HLP chief subsequently voted in its favour in elections for the President and Vice-President, and the Rajya Sabha elections.

The 57-year-old leader has also, time and again, reiterated his support to the BJP invoking his family’s old association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The Sirsa MLA had positioned himself for a key role when the 2019 Assembly elections threw up a fractured mandate with the BJP falling six short of the simple majority mark in the 90-member House. His bid, however, came unstuck after senior BJP leader Uma Bharti , in a series of tweets, advised the State unit to solicit support from leaders with a ‘clean’ image.

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As per Mr. Kanda’s affidavit to Election Commission ahead of the 2019 Assembly polls, nine criminal cases, including abetment to suicide, criminal conspiracy, forgery, cheating and cheque bounce, are pending against him in various courts.

Man for Sirsa

Mr. Kanda could be key to the BJP’s plans to get a foothold in the Sirsa region, a traditional bastion of the Chautalas’ Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) that has five Assembly seats and where the BJP drew a blank in the 2019 election.

From running a shoe store along with his brother in Sirsa in 1990s to launching his own airlines, the now-defunct MDLR Airlines, Mr. Kanda first aligned with the late Haryana Chief Minister Bansi Lal but shifted loyalties to the Chautalas when the INLD came to power in 1999. However, he fell out in 2009 and won from Sirsa as an Independent.

With the Bhupinder Hooda-led Congress falling short of the simple majority mark – in a situation similar to the BJP’s in 2019 – Mr. Kanda was instrumental in swinging things in favour of the grand old party. Made the Minister of State for Home, his rise hit a roadblock after Geetika Sharma, who was employed withMDLR airlines, ended her life in 2012 after accusing him of sexual harassment. A year later, her mother too took the same step after blaming him.

(Those who require assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts may contact Sanjivini, Society for Mental Health suicide prevention helpline 011-40769002 (10 a.m . to 7.30 p.m., Monday-Saturday).

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