In a setback to the Aam Aadmi Party just over a week before polling for Lok Sabha seats takes place in Delhi, its sitting MLA from Gandhi Nagar Anil Bajpai on Friday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party amid trading of barbs between the two parties over horse trading charges.
Bajpai said he quit the AAP as he felt "suffocated" over the "misbehaviour and insult" meted out by the party and claimed that several other legislators of the ruling party in the national capital felt the same way.
The move comes at a time when AAP leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, have accused the BJP of indulging in horse trading.
Bajpai is the second AAP lawmaker to join the BJP in the last couple of months. AAP MP from Punjab Harinder Singh Khalsa, who was suspended from the party, joined the BJP in March.
The Delhi MLA joined the BJP in the presence of party national vice-president and city BJP in-charge Shyam Jaju and Union minister Vijay Goel at the Delhi unit office of the saffron party.
"I worked with the AAP for many years. I was hurt by the lack of respect and the peculiar functioning of the party. It has detracted from its original path," Bajpai said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday took potshots at Narendra Modi after the BJP claimed it was in touch with 14 "frustrated" AAP MLAs, asking if for the prime minister democracy meant forming government by "buying" opposition MLAs.
He tagged a news report in a tweet and asked Goel, "Why your talks over buying 14 AAP MLAs is stuck, how much are you offering and how much are they asking for."
Senior AAP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had on Wednesday charged that seven of his party MLAs in the national capital have been offered Rs 10 crore each to join the BJP.
Reacting to this, Goel had on Thursday claimed that 14 AAP MLAs who wanted to quit were in touch with the BJP.
Asked about this issue, he said, "Let them (AAP) disclose names of their seven MLAs who have been offered money, I will give you the names of rest seven."
Bajpai, however, denied having taken any money for joining the BJP and said Kejriwal was in the habit of making allegations and then tendering apologies.
"I felt very much humiliated at the misbehaviour with MLAs who were called donkeys, fools and 'tuchha' (cheap)," he alleged.
Reacting to the development, senior AAP leader Gopal Rai said his party has for sometime been accusing the BJP of trying to "buy" its MLAs.
"As far as Bajpai is concerned, no person would say that they have taken money and going to another party, they would be finding faults within the party. Bajpai had himself come from the Congress, so what issue did he have from the alliance talks that were going on?" he asked.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj alleged that the BJP lures its rivals' MLAs by "offering crores of rupees" and Modi never explains the source of this money.
"It's an old dirty trick of the BJP to lure MLAs of opponents by offering crores of rupees. Our honest prime minster never explains the source of this money. This week BJP miserably failed to gather even a minimum crowd in rallies of (its chief) Amit Shah and (Union minister) Rajnath Singh at Delhi. This has pushed BJP to desperation,” he said.
The BJP tried the same through people like Kapil Mishra who also "unsuccessfully tried to destabilise the Delhi government", Bharadwaj claimed.
"Later it became clear who was pulling his strings,” he said.
Bajpai has alleged that he is unhappy over the AAP trying to form an alliance with Congress , while he has himself served the Congress for 15 years before joining the AAP, Bharadwaj said.
"Traders in Gandhi Nagar have faced sealing and losses in business due to BJP's central government and it's MCD. By joining BJP, he (Bajpai) has not only deceived the AAP but also cheated trader community in Gandhi Nagar,” he said.
AAP's Chandni Chowk MLA, Alka Lamba who has been sidelined within the party following differences with Kejriwal and other leaders, claimed that Bajpai was insulted repeatedly and he quit the party out of self-respect.
"Anil Bajpai's decision to leave the BJP would negatively impact the AAP more than him. The party insulted him on multiple occasion. His age and physical disability was not even taken into consideration by the party.
"The AAP MLA has taken this step not for money but for self-respect. The AAP should definitely think over it," she said.
Three other AAP leaders -- Gaurav Sharma, Vandana Rani and Sanjay Jain -- also joined the BJP along with Bajpai. Sharma and Rani had contested the Delhi civic polls in 2017 as AAP candidates.