NEW DELHI: Expelled BSP leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui and four other former Uttar Pradesh ministers from the party on Thursday formally joined the Congress, which said the development was a sign of “changing times” in its favour.
Apart from Siddiqui and the ministers, 19 former MLAs and MLCs and 43 office-bearers of the Mayawati-led BSP joined the Congress in presence of All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad and state Congress chief Raj Babbar.
Besides Siddiqui, OP Singh, Raghunath Prasad Shankwar, Liyaqat Ali and Achchelal Nishad were the former ministers who joined the Congress.
Siddiqui also announced merger of the Rashtriya Bahujan Morcha, which he had floated after being expelled from the BSP for alleged “anti-party” activities after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls last year, with the Congress.
“We welcome these leaders and their workers on joining Congress. These are signs of changing times and we can imagine from this how it augurs for the Congress as people are willing to work in Congress, under the leadership of its president Rahul Gandhi than joining other parties,” Azad told reporters.
Both Azad and Babbar maintained that the leaders and workers joining the Congress will strengthen the party in the politically crucial state.
Asked if Siddiqui, considered the Muslim face of the BSP, and others joining the Congress will upset Mayawati, Azad replied in negative, saying she herself had expelled them.
“They were to join some, or the other party (following the expulsion). Besides, we did not become angry after she had taken away our sitting MLAs ahead of the Assembly polls. So, Behanji has no reason to be angry, because they were no more part of that party (BSP),” he said.
Asked if the development will affect the prospects of a grand alliance of opposition parties, Azad replied in negative. He reasoned any grand alliance is formed keeping in view “totally different considerations” at the state and at national levels.
“When you talk about greater alliance, then you look at the big picture, than like who went to which party,” he added.
When a reporter tried to point out that some of those who joined the party were controversial, Azad countered by asking whether they were “more controversial than the people heading the Government of India or the state (Uttar Pradesh).”
“I do not think so,” he added.
Azad also said that the leaders have joined the Congress “without any condition”.
Siddiqui said he will work in accordance with the instructions of the national leadership of the Congress.
Following his expulsion from the BSP, Siddiqui had charged that Mayawati had demanded money from him.
Today, he said he had not levelled any allegations against Mayawati, but had only issued “clarifications”.
According to Congress sources, the entry of the leaders into the party will help send a message that the tide was shifting in its favour. Last month, disgruntled BJP MP from Maharashtra Nana Patole returned to the Congress. Patole had joined the BJP ahead of the 2014 general elections.