Wife, brother of jailed former UP minister join SP

Lucknow, July 13 (IANS) In a dramatic development, Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) Saturday inducted the wife and brother of former Bahujan Samaj Party leader and minister Babu Singh Kushwaha, arrested in the NRHM scam, into the party.

While the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was supposed to address a press meet to announce the assimilation of Kushwaha's wife Sukanya and his brother Shiv Saran, he back-tracked moments before the event and instead directed party spokesman and state Prisons Minister Ram Chaudhary to make the announcement.

Kushwaha is the one of the prime accused in the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam and is currently lodged in the Dasna jail in Ghaziabad.

After being ousted by the then chief minister Mayawati, Kushwaha had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just before the state assembly elections last year. BJP leaders had protested the move saying it compromised the fight against corruption, following which the decision was suspended by then BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

Kushwaha was one of the closest aides of Mayawati and in fact stayed at her residence. He began his career as a telephone operator with Mayawati and slowly climbed the power corridor and went on to become one of the most powerful ministers in her cabinet.

The SP, according to informed sources, "compromised" on the corruption charges against Kushwaha and granted membership to his wife and brother in the party with an eye on the Maurya and Kushwaha vote bank.

Bracing up for a do or die battle in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, the move is being seen as a bid by the ruling party to shore up its numbers in the Lok Sabha which could place it in a powerful bargaining position in a predicted hung parliament.

The move came as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, whose efforts to cleanse his party of corrupt leaders and musclemen, had earned him respect in the run up to the assembly polls, is away on a family holiday to Europe.

BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak took a potshot at the development and said the people wanted to know what "deal had been struck between Kushwahas and the SP".

"Only a few days back, three fresh FIRs have been registered against Kushwaha by the government, why then suddenly this change of heart?" he asked, claiming that SP had double standards and was desperate to get seats in the LS polls by caste politics.

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