BJP and Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh Need Each Other More Than Ever

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The BJP and Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh Need Each Other More Than Ever

| Updated: May 13, 2024 16:18

“It would be a big, hard slap for those who want to write the story of my ruin (barbadi ki kahani). That’s why, on May 20, I ask of you to push the [EVM] button hard, with rage.” That was Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s emotive appeal to voters in the Kaiserganj Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh to ensure that his son, Karan Bhushan Singh, won by a margin of five lakh votes.

Sexual harassment charges may have pushed the controversial six-time MP out of the election race in 2024 but on the ground, he looms large and remains defiant, actively campaigning for his son. So pervasive is his presence that even when he was not on stage – deliberately kept off to cut political damage –  Adityanath, the state chief minister, while campaigning for Karan Bhushan on May 12, could not avoid the tainted sitting MP and former president of the Wrestling Federation of India. Adityanath, however, did not name Brij Bhushan even once in his speech, even as he described Karan as a “khandani (inherited) Ram Bhakt” and a “param (ultimate) Ram Bhakt”, alluding to his father’s connection with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

“The MP from here has provided poor families the gift of a buffalo each,” Adityanath said in Payagpur in Bahraich (part of the Kaiserganj Lok Sabha constituency) on May 12. The banner behind him on the stage showcased a cutout of Brij Bhushan just above a large picture of his 33-year-old debutant son.

Adityanath cited the example of buffaloes while underlining the BJP’s “model” of “development and welfare of the poor”. “That is why the BJP has sent an energetic youngster to you,” said Adityanath, referring to Karan. Adityanath also tried to highlight Brij Bhushan’s Hindutva credentials. He said that along with Brij Bhushan, he had protested in Parliament when the UPA government had tried to introduce a sub-quota for Muslims in the 27% OBC reservations.

Away from Payagpur, in Gonda’s Colonelganj assembly seat (part of the Kaiserganj LS), Brij Bhushan’s public address, on the same day as Adityanath’s rally, was mostly about his own victimhood, infused with his smug defiance and a call for avenging “the conspiracy” hatched against him.

“You wanted to make me the MP but Karan Bhushan has become one. Look at this! And there was nothing lacking in me,” said Brij Bhushan, playing up emotions.

He recited a couplet from the Hindu epic Ramcharitmanas on Lord Ram’s exile and his brother Bharat’s regret over it, to express the inevitability of destiny.

Throughout his speech, Brij Bhushan tried to project the sexual harassment charges levelled against him by multiple female wrestlers of Haryana as a conspiracy to end his political career.

“Those who want to end my political career from 500 km away…I have been enduring this struggle for a year and five months now. I am still enduring. But I am not broken, I am not tired,” said Brij Bhushan.

On Friday, May 10, a court in Delhi ordered the framing of charges against Brij Bhushan for sexual harassment, criminal intimidation and assault or criminal force with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty, in the wrestlers’ case. He was discharged in a complaint filed by one the six women wrestlers.

The court’s decision was hailed as a victory by the women wrestlers who have been fighting for justice against the powerful Thakur leader for over a year. In Kaiserganj, however, Brij Bhushan exuded confidence that he would come out scot-free. “No court in the world can ensnare me in this case because there is no truth in it,” said Brij Bhushan.

During his public meetings, he is also playing up his political career and his rise from an “ordinary family” and someone who despite political success is still connected to farming, cows and buffaloes.

“I was made by the junta of Gonda,” he thundered at a public meeting. “One should never cause pain to a good person or a poor person (shareef aur gareeb),” he further said, issuing a warning to those who accused him in the sexual harassment case.

After the Delhi court ordered framing of charges against him, the wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, described it as a “big milestone” in their struggle, “which started in January 2023 on the streets, then committees, back on the streets and finally in the courts, against the main perpetrator of sexual crimes against women wrestlers and the promotion of misogyny that has existed” in the Wrestling Federation of India.

The wrestlers’ statements criticising the BJP for fielding Karan in his place did not go down well with Brij Bhushan, who used it to garner more sympathy in his constituency.

“What did these wrestlers need to tweet? They tweeted against the BJP, asking why did you give Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s son the ticket. Who are you? You have not even contested the election for a pradhan (village head) in your life. You will lose even if you contest. And you sit there and decide about Kaiserganj, who should get a ticket and who should not?”

Brij Bhushan’s family has a long history of politics in the Gonda-Balrampur area and in adjoining districts. His grandfather Chandrabhan Singh was an MLA in the 1950s, while he has himself been elected MP six times from Gonda, Kaiserganj and Balrampur constituencies since 1991. His wife Ketaki Singh was elected MP in 1996 when he faced terror charges. His eldest son Pratik Bhushan Singh is an MLA from Gonda. Karan Bhushan, who is making his Lok Sabha debut, was elected the president of the UP Wrestling Association in February, replacing his father.

In Colonelganj, Brij Bhushan referred to how he had also invested his “khoon pasina (sweat and blood)” to ensure that the Indian wrestlers won medals. He claimed he was being targeted because “I stand with the weak and call wrong as wrong and truth as truth.” Reaching out to Yadav voters, he narrated how he had stood by wrestler Narsingh Singh after he was banned for doping.

Given Brij Bhushan’s clout in the constituency and a divided Opposition with the INDIA bloc and the Bahujan Samaj Party both fielding Brahmin candidates against his son, Kaiserganj seat is one for the BJP to lose, despite the negative publicity received by the Thakur leader outside his home state.

In his interviews, Brij Bhushan has often chosen to not acknowledge the leadership of Adityanath, whose governance he has also been publicly critical of.

But for now, there seems to be a semblance of internal peace even though the BJP is still hesitant to openly acknowledge the tainted MP on stage. Brij Bhushan and the BJP need each other more than ever.

While reading out his election speech on Sunday, Karan, fighting in place of his father, described Adityanath as “my father’s inseparable friend” and “my guardian”. Brij Bhushan, who is seeking votes for his son, has accepted that “life is not as straight as a railway track”. “This life is like a river. It sways left to right. A rail track moves in a straight line. A river keeps changing its stream,” he said at a small public meeting.

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