Sudheendra Kulkarni, one-time aide of senior BJP leader L K Advani, who was sent to Delhi’s Tihar Jail, may soon be back in the party.
In fact, BJP president Nitin Gadkari has been wanting to take him back for quite some time but other leaders have been lukewarm to the idea. But, with his arrest in connection with the cash-for-vote scam, his stock has shot up again.
Gadkari wants to utilize Kukarni’s services in BJP, helping him in his responsibilities as BJP president.
Kulkarni had left the BJP in August 2009 when the BJP was in the thick of internal bickerings soon after the Lok Sabha polls. He went to aid Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee when she was Railways Minister in the UPA government, being a member of the panel to foster “private-public partnership.”
Kulkarni earned the ire of BJP leaders when he blamed the RSS for “micro-managing” the BJP, which he held was one of the reasons for the 2009 poll drubbing.
Kulkarni, who was a key member of BJP’s election team, which was headed by Arun Jaitley, had also openly criticized the RSS for forcing his mentor, Advani, to quit as BJP president for the row over his remark on a visit to Pakistan on that country’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Gadkari had always argued that Kulkarni’s services were needed by the BJP, given his experience of serving former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee during the NDA’s rule between 2004 and 2009 and Advani.
Even in 2005, Kulkarni had stepped down as an office-bearer after the controversy generated by Advani’s quotes on Jinnah. He had then sent a letter to Advani calling for “recasting” the RSS-BJP relationship, distancing the party from extremist elements and solving the “organisational disarray”.
Praising the party for which he worked as a full-time activist for 13 long years, Kulkarni had said then, “BJP is a strong party and will soon find its way out of the current situation…The country needs two strong political poles for democracy to survive.” He had also defended Jaswant Singh for his book - Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence - when he was expelled from the BJP.
But events have come full circle, say BJP insiders. Advani, along with Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, on Wednesday visited Tihar jail where the two former MPs - Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora - and Kulkarni have been kept under judicial custody. Kulkarni was arrested on September 27 and sent to judicial custody till October one in connection with the 2008 cash-for-votes scandal. Earlier this month, Bhagora and Kulaste too were sent to jail after their bail pleas were rejected by a local court. Kulkarni was arrested because he organized the TV sting and was part of the drama that involved three BJP MPs displaying cash in the Lok Sabha in July 2008.
Kulkarni had along with Jaitley organized the sting after one of the BJP MPs was lured by Amar Singh, then general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, to help the Congress to gain numbers and enable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh win the July 22, 2008 vote of confidence. The vote became necessary as the Left parties had withdrawn support to the UPA government opposing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
Defending Kulkarni, Jaitley said, “False entrapment cannot co-exist with bribery” while maintaining that whistleblower cannot be treated in the same manner as a bribe giver.
Jaitley said 19 MPs had either cross-voted or abstained during the trust vote and there were “open allegations” of use of money power to influence MPs. “Delhi Police has accepted that prima facie bribe was paid…. Our MPs were only involved in exposing them (bribe givers) as whistleblowers.”