Ab Dilli wears nahin: BJP Head of State Adesh Gupta turns a corner with Jahangirpuri

NEARLY TWO years after taking office as leader of the Delhi BJP, to the surprise of his party colleagues, Adesh Gupta is finally having his moment in the sun.

From time violence broke out in Jahangirpuri from the April 16 Hanuman Jayanti procession to everything since, the 53-year-old North Delhi Municipal Corporation councilor has been at the heart of the action. His last decision was to write a letter to other civic bodies in Delhi to carry out similar demolitions in their jurisdiction.

The BJP’s announcement of Adesh Gupta as Delhi Unity Chairman in June 2020, as the successor to top MP Manoj Tiwari, came mostly out of nowhere. Gupta’s name was not making the rounds at the time, and no one in political circles considered him a heavy enough weight for the job.

Gupta, who hails from Kannauj in the UP,’s politics have until now largely centered on his Patel Nagar constituency, from where he is first serving as a councilor in the MCD North. He served as Mayor of North MCD from April 2018 to April 2019.

Gupta’s selection immediately led to two types of state unity votes. One section felt that the party gave the right message by choosing a karyakarta as state president instead of big names or celebrities. But there was another section that believed that the post of state president in Delhi paralleled AAP official Arvind Kejriwal, and so the choice should have been the one that got immediate attention.

The position of chairman of the Delhi BJP wields considerable influence over state politics, as the party is also in power in the three municipalities of the capital (members of the fourth civic body, NDMC, are appointed). Since Delhi is a union territory, the Center (also run by the BJP) controls the police, DDA and other government departments in the capital.

“Adesh Gupta’s tenure as State President did not begin with the hype that usually builds around the post. Being a relatively unknown face, he had the disadvantage that the media did not give him the limelight that previous presidents had seen,” a senior BJP official said.

Gupta also had the disadvantage of being pitted against a lively Aam Aadmi party, which in Delhi is ahead of the BJP in the battle of perception. Under his orders, the BJP lost, one by one, five indirect elections in the capital, including that of Shalimar Bagh, which it had won in 2017.

We have seen that the senior leaders organize sensitization programs in the capital without putting the unit of Delhi in confidence. While one of the reasons for Adesh Gupta’s appointment was his familiarity with MCD politics, he was unable to counter the image of BJP-run MCDs as “corrupt” bodies. with a rise of anti-incumbency against them.

That has changed now with Jahangirpuri, admitted a BJP leader.

Shortly after the April 16 violence, Gupta wrote to MCD North Mayor Raja Iqbal Singh demanding that the illegal encroachments and constructions made by those arrested for the riot be demolished. As the exercise was planned at different levels, Gupta constantly kept the pressure on.

A day before the demolitions, which the MCD said were part of a routine exercise and unrelated to the violence, Gupta and local BJP MP Hans Raj Hans met with Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana , demanding police forces for the anti-encroachment drill scheduled for April 20-21. Later that night, the state unit received confirmation of the same from police, who agreed to the deployment after previously denying the same for similar demolitions scheduled for April 19.

Adesh Gupta takes credit for it, while speaking to The Indian Express. “I spoke to the City Commissioner by telephone and we met with the Commissioner of Police on Tuesday afternoon to tell him that there was a request from the public for the encroachments to be removed and that he should provide a police force adequate,” he said.

Sources within the party said Gupta became the hub of communication between central management, business leaders, MCD bureaucrats and the police chief. “The MCD was initially not very enthusiastic about the (demolition) exercise, but later received a phone call from the Head of State with a message that it had to be done,” said an executive.

Gupta’s letter to the southern and eastern mayors urges that bulldozers be deployed for the demolition campaigns and that strict measures be taken against illegal encroachments on government land by “Bangladeshis, Rohingyas and antisocial elements.

A BJP leader said he saw Adesh Gupta go far. “It will depend on his political maneuverings from now on, if he can command attention like Narottam Mishra (a senior Madhya Pradesh minister considered an extremist) did in MP,” the leader said.

However, although very optimistic with the “bulldozer model”, many BJP executives say it would be wrong to attribute all the credit to the state unit. A former board member pointed out that this would not have been possible without the blessing of central management.

What is likely to help Gupta is that he has few enemies and is known as a soft-spoken person who doesn’t lose his temper in public. This is not an easy task in the Delhi BJP, an infighting unit. “His challenge, like his predecessor, has been to take on different heads and their egos, whether MPs or former leaders,” one executive said.

Many of them continue to feel that their views are not being heard, while some feel that their recommendations are not being taken into account in the state unit.

From his hometown of Kannauj, Gupta was part of the ABVP from 1987, serving in different positions. He moved to the capital in 1994 and was involved in the BJP Yuva Morcha from 2004 to 2007. His great luck seems to have been to become secretary of the national office of Yuva Morcha at a time when the current minister of the Union, Dharmendra Pradhan, was chairman of the outfit.

Between 2009 and 2014, he held several positions in the Delhi BJP, from bloc to district to state. In 2009, he became the Mandal Chairman of West Patel Nagar and later the District Officer of Najafgarh. Meanwhile, Adesh Gupta is said to have grown closer to party chairman JP Nadda, having worked with him at the organizational level as a party worker.

“He wanted a ticket for the 2020 assembly elections in Delhi but couldn’t get one,” a BJP leader said, adding that it was only possible in the BJP for a man who has been denied a ticket to the Assembly can become President of the State.

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