Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal joins BJP

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Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal joins BJP

Two days after he lost out on a Rajya Sabha nomination on Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket to actor Jaya Bachchan, now-retiring MP from the Upper House, Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal, joined the BJP but not before he sparked controversy with his comments on Ms. Bachchan.

Samajwadi PartyFlanked by Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal and with BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra in tow, Mr. Agarwal made no secret of his disappointment at being edged out by Ms. Bachchan.

Remark sparks row

“I am joining the party as I feel that to serve the country one needs to be part of a national party. I will always carry deep respect in my heart for [SP chief] Mulayam Singh Yadav and [MP] Ram Gopal Yadav, but the way things are going in the SP,  has prompted me to leave. The party, through its ill-advised coalitions has reduced itself to a small regional party, and then to ignore my claims and equate me with someone who dances and sings in films [Jaya Bachchan] was not acceptable to me,” Mr. Agarwal said.

The BJP quickly distanced itself from his comment. “The BJP respects political workers  from all walks of life,” said party spokesperson Sambit Patra.

Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj  took to  Twitter to register her unhappiness with Mr. Agarwal’s remark, terming it improper and unacceptable.

“Naresh Agarwal has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachchan are improper and unacceptable,” she tweeted.

Later, Mr. Agarwal’s aides were at pains to explain that he was as aggrieved at the dismissal of Mr. Ram Gopal Yadav’s claims in favour of Ms. Bachchan as he was for his own. “So his words may have come out wrong,” said an aide.

Mr Agarwal further said that his “community” (Baniya-Vaish) had “anyway” been big supporters of the BJP and would therefore be happy to see him in the BJP.

Mr. Agarwal’s son Nitin Agarwal, a three-time MLA in U.P., too joined the BJP.

The BJP has fielded a ninth candidate for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats going to polls in Uttar Pradesh out of which the party is comfortably placed to win eight, in order to needle the new SP-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) unity candidate for the 10th seat.

NEW DELHI, MARCH 12, 2018