Ashwini Kumar, a media baron and the Karnal MP, has been on a warpath with the Haryana BJP unit. His paper carried an ode on Priyanka.
The BJP has been left red-faced as one of its sitting MPs has written an ode to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, catapulted into active politics on 23 January, eulogising her entry as “much needed for the country and Uttar Pradesh”.
‘The fragrance of Priyanka’ goes the title of a page-one editorial in the popular Hindi daily Punjab Kesari, penned by Ashwini Kumar Chopra, the BJP MP from Karnal in Haryana.
And he was just getting started.
Chopra, the editor of the New Delhi-based Punjab Kesari, a breakaway of the original newspaper group published from Jalandhar, then goes on to compare Priyanka with her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
“Priyanka Gandhi brings with her the legacy of Indira Gandhi whose reflection she is and for whom, the nation and especially the people of Uttar Pradesh have been waiting in hope for,” Ashwini wrote in the editorial that appeared Friday.
Alongside the page one editorial, Punjab Kesari also carried her picture juxtaposed with that of Indira Gandhi, showing them as mirror images of one other.
Inside too, the newspaper carried two full pages on Priyanka Gandhi and how her entry into the Congress trenches is bound to make a major impact on the fate of her party.
Several attempts were made to contact Ashwini Chopra over the phone and his response is awaited. This article will be updated in case there is a response from him.
A hagiography like no other
Chopra’s ode also credits the Congress with practicing “inclusive politics”.
“Her entry into the mainstream politics of Uttar Pradesh will raise the politics from being led by casteism and communalism to nationalism,” Chopra’s editorial reads. “Congress politics has never been limited to the narrow walls of caste, religion, community or sections. Even in the worst of times, Congress has never compromised with its basic principles and indulged in divisive politics.”
He also credits the Grand Old Party of having always worked for the welfare of the poor.
“Starting with Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad and Ambedkar till Indira Gandhi, the Congress has worked for the poor and the downtrodden and it is because of them that after Independence India has been on the path to constant progress,” he writes. “The focus of Congress politics has always been development and it has always rejected the politics of destruction. In fact the history of the last century has been the history of the Congress party.”
Chopra even lashes out at the critics of the Gandhi family in the piece. “The opposition’s criticism that this is a dynastic party of the Nehru -Gandhi family is nothing but a show of desperation from their side because in a democracy only that leader can succeed in whose leadership the people believe,” he writes. “And yet within the Congress party there is enough internal democracy that even Sonia Gandhi had to face Jitendra Prasad to make it to the post of the party head.”
“On the other hand the BJP has tied up with the Akali Dal and Shiv Sena etc which are dynastic parties. So to call Priyanka Gandhi as an extension of dynastic politics within the Congress is wrong,” he adds.
MP had been at loggerheads with party
Chopra, a media baron, was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice of candidate for the Karnal seat but since winning, his relationship with the BJP appears to have deteriorated.
Over the years, the first-time MP has been critical of the working of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and has lately also shown clear signs of taking a stand not in tune with his party.
The trouble began almost immediately after he won the Karnal seat in May 2014. The Haryana state assembly elections were due a few months later but Chopra was apparently not consulted when BJP finalised candidates for the assembly segments falling within his constituency.
Khattar won from the Karnal assembly segment and went on to become the chief minister.
The Khattar government was just one year into power when Chopra criticised the working of the chief minister’s office alleging that the chief minister was a simple man but was being taken for a ride by bureaucrats close to him, many of who were allegedly corrupt.
In February 2016, after the state was rocked by violence during the Jat reservation agitation, Chopra invited the ire of his party men when he said that at least two ministers in the Khattar cabinet were responsible for the violence.
He also made it a point not to be present at any of Khattar’s public appearances in Karnal, which is a part of his constituency.
The relationship between the chief minister and Ashwini deteriorated so much that on one occasion when Khattar dropped in for lunch at Chopra’s residence, it made headlines.
The MP has also been ill at ease with his party high command on some issues.
Contrary to the BJP agenda to dismantle the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, Ashwini wrote an article in Punjab Kesari (re-published by ThePrint on 3 August, 2018) hailing Nehru as the greatest Prime Minister India has had. In the same article, Chopra derided Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s economic policies.
May not get BJP ticket
With Khattar set to contest assembly elections from Karnal again later this year, winning the Karnal parliamentary seat has become vital for the BJP. And Chopra’s chances of getting the BJP ticket are slim.
Apart from the growing differences between Chopra and the BJP, he also has health issues that might prevent him from actively participating in elections.
His electorate too has been critical of him when it comes to the work he has done for his constituency. At least on one occasion, posters have come up in Karnal with his picture saying that the MP has gone missing.
Chopra, however, isn’t as critical of the Congress now as is obvious from his ode to Priyanka.
Sources say that Ashwini obviously knows where his bread is buttered. The 2014 Congress candidate from Karnal, Arvind Sharma, is already showing signs of wanting to join the BJP. He has been openly praising the chief minister and education minister Ram Bilas Sharma.
Sources add that Ashwini might be eyeing the Congress ticket from Karnal for his wife Kiran Chopra, who is an entrepreneur and has been actively working in various social fields. Her Varishth Nagrik Kesari Club, a group to help the elderly has been widely appreciated.