BHOPAL: In a setback to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, the party's state media cell vice chairman Narendra Saluja, who is a close aide of former chief minister Kamal Nath, on Friday joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a development that comes amid Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra that is passing through the state.
Saluja said he joined the BJP after questions were raised by members of the Sikh community over felicitation of Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath, facing allegations in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, in Indore earlier this month.
A row had erupted after Kamal Nath was felicitated by organisers at a Sikh religious event held at Khalsa College in Indore on November 8.
After Nath left the venue, famous kirtan singer Manpreet Singh Kanpuri lashed out at the organisers for inviting the Congress leader.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan welcomed Saluja into the BJP fold at his official residence.
Forest Minister Vijay Shah and state BJP's media cell in-charge Lokendra Parashar were present on the occasion. Congress's state media cell chairman K K Mishra, however, said that Saluja was recently expelled from the party.
Welcoming Saluja, Chouhan said that he has joined the BJP as he was impressed with the policies of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Saluja's decision to join the BJP will strengthen the party, he said.
Saluja said, "I have decided to join the BJP in the wake of protests after the felicitation of Kamal Nath in Indore on November 8, on the issue of his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots."
"The words of noted Kirtankar Manpreet Singh Kanpuri in protest against Nath's role in the 1984 riots are still echoing in my ears since then. Therefore, I decided to join the BJP," he said.
Congress's Mishra said Saluja was removed from his post earlier as well owing to his links with the BJP, but after he apologised to Nath, he was reinstated.