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|November 17, 1998||
VHP leader campaigns for rebels, gives BJP the jitters
George Iype in New Delhi
One week before the assembly election in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party is engaged in a different battle over the crucial seats in East Delhi.
The BJP's candidates are up against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader B L Sharma 'Prem', former MP, who is actively campaigning for the rebels and Independents in many of the 20 assembly segments in East Delhi.
The BJP leadership has requested the VHP and the RSS to rein in Sharma and his wife Krishna.
Many believe the Sharma family's anti-BJP antics could cost the party dearly and help the Congress.
Sharma represented East Delhi in the Lok Sabha before he quit the BJP in 1996 and took on a full-time role in the VHP. Krishna Sharma is a full-time RSS worker.
BJP candidates say the husband-wife duo who floated the Akhand Hindustan Morcha (United India Front), a socio-religious outfit, some time ago are now publicly campaigning for BJP rebels across East Delhi.
"I have asked BJP president Kushabhau Thakre to take appropriate action against Sharma and his wife for threatening and abusing me in public meetings," Naresh Gaur, the BJP candidate from Babarpur, told Rediff On The NeT.
The stand-off between the Sharmas and the BJP candidates in East Delhi began when the former opposed the party's decision to field Gaur from Babarpur. The Sharmas are angry at Gaur because he had led local BJP politicians in levelling corruption charges against Prem two years ago, forcing him to resign from the Lok Sabha.
"Sharma thinks I was responsible for his resignation and therefore he wants to scuttle the party's chances in East Delhi," Gaur said.
On Sunday, Sharma's supporters allegedly attacked Gaur and hurled stones at his house while Krishna addressed a series of public meetings in support of Independent candidate Kiran Tyagi in Babarpur.
Gaur then lodged a complaint against Krishna at the Shahdara police station. She retaliated by filing a criminal complaint against Gaur.
Both the Sharmas and Gaur have accused each other of impropriety and violating the election code of conduct.
What is worrying the BJP leadership is the Sharmas' decision to continue campaigning against the official candidates in many East Delhi constituencies.
"Prem and his wife are unnecessarily being provoked by anti-BJP forces in East Delhi. They are being misguided by anti-social elements. We want the party leadership to take notice and rein them in," Alok Kumar, BJP candidate from Rohtas Nagar, told Rediff On The NeT.
"We also want the party leadership to ban his social organisation from campaigning in East Delhi," he said.
While many believe the Sharmas' decision to publicly campaign for Independent candidates will eat into the votes of the official BJP candidates, the VHP leader claims he is not working against the BJP.
"I am no longer a BJP member. But neither my wife nor I is campaigning against the BJP in East Delhi. I have not been supporting any party in elections ever since I quit as an MP," he argued.
"But," he further told Rediff On The NeT, "we have noticed that some of the official BJP candidates have criminal records. The Akhand Hindustan Morcha is fighting against all candidates with criminal antecedents."
Sharma, the man who kicked up a storm last month with his attempt to justify the rape of three nuns in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, claimed he gave up politics because he was "disgusted with the kind of politics my colleagues played in the party". "I find peace in places like Hardwar and I work for spreading the philosophy of Hindutva through the VHP," he said.
But local BJP politicians say Sharma, who had quit the BJP acrimoniously, accusing the party leadership of "neglecting him", is not being driven by any such lofty ideals. He is merely taking revenge. He and his wife have often accused the East Delhi BJP MLAs of plotting against him.
"Our candidates in constituencies like Babarpur, Rohtas Nagar, Mandawali and Laxmi Nagar find themselves in deep trouble thanks to Sharma's decision to support independents there," a BJP politician admitted. Though Sharma is no longer with the BJP, he has a sizeable following in East Delhi.
The party is now anxiously awaiting the Sangh Parivar leadership's action.
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