LUCKNOW: Election time in UP is the season of fair-weather birds and turncoat politicians, who betray their loyalties in search of power and pelf. Every year, with the onset of winter, UP plays host to flocks of migratory birds from Siberia. This year, with Assembly polls due in winter, political migration is the talk of the town. More than 50 politicians have already joined the band of ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’, with many more eyeing safer sanctuaries.
In this season of migration, could Naresh Agarwal be left behind? For someone who has tried every political colour, what remains true is his unwavering influence in his home district, Hardoi. When he left the BSP to rejoin the Samajwadi Party (SP) on December 30, he tagged Rajeshwari Devi, another BSP MLA with him, and had a throng of supporters drive down to Lucknow in 500 cars. The BSP might call him a betrayer, but in the SP camp, he was heralded as a warrior by “Netaji”.
Five years ago, Agarwal, then in the SP, had won his seat in the 2007 Assembly polls. But SP lost the election to the BSP under Mayawati. He wasted no time and joined the BSP, which critics say, was to protect his huge business empire. His reward—elevation to the Rajya Sabha (RS), and awarding of his Assembly seat to son Nitin. But Agarwal’s relationship with the BSP chief got strained soon after, and when Behanji declared that Nitin wouldn’t get a ticket this time, he wasted no time in switching sides. That the RS seat was to expire in April made it easier.
This is just one episode in his history of political hopscotch. Before SP, he had formed the Loktantrik Congress Party, after defecting with a group of MLAs from the Congress to support Kalyan Singh’s BJP government in 1997. Four months on, he ditched Singh, and in a deal with the SP, put Jagdambika Pal as the CM, only for the move to be declared void by the High Court.
UP’s list of turncoats has many more illustrious names. A fortnight ago, Ajit Singh joined UPA-II and hitched his RLD with the Congress for the Assembly polls. Shahid Siddiqui, former RS member, quit SP in 2008 after it supported UPA on the nuclear deal, to join the BSP which opposed the deal, lost the 2009 LS polls, joined RLD, quit, and is now back to wooing Netaji, describing him as the “only rahnuma (saviour) of Muslims”. Rashid Masood, a popular leader, has meanwhile quit the SP to join the Congress, just as Devendra Singh has in Etah. Anand Singh, a royal from Gonda, is also set to join the Congress. All this accommodation has caused resentment within the Congress too. But in its eagerness to grab power it has been denied over 22 years, the Congress, it seems, is ready to go to any extremes.