Gopal Kanda: BJP has a lot to answer for Haryana's new kingmaker

Gopal Kanda, founder of the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP), is the new sensation in the state’s politics. But his chequered career cost him dear as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declined his unconditional support to the party and forged an alliance with the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party.

The BJP leadership took the decision after facing backlash from across party lines, after a picture that went viral on social media on Friday showed him with five other new members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) en route to meet BJP president J P Nadda.

On Thursday, addressing the media, Kanda, who was flown to Delhi by Sirsa BJP MP Sunita Duggal, said: “Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, Haryana will see development. All Independent MLAs have decided to give their unconditional support to the BJP.”

Making his position clear, he said on Friday, “My family is connected with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since 1926. My father was connected with the BJP.”

Kanda was on a comeback route after defeating Independent candidate Gokul Setia to clinch the Sirsa constituency with a slender margin of 602 votes. The result of the Haryana Assembly election, held on October 21, was declared on Thursday.

The ruling BJP, which was expected to sweep, fell short of expectations, getting only 40; the Opposition Congress performed better than expected to win 31. The 11-month-old Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) won 10 seats.

But the decision of the party leadership to take Kanda’s help did not go down well with some senior leaders such as Uma Bharti.

“Winning election doesn’t acquit #GopalKanda of his crimes. BJP must not compromise with its moral values,” the former Union Minister said in a series of tweets.
The Opposition, too, has taken the opportunity to hit out at the BJP.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “When Kanda was a minister in the Congress he was an aaropi (accused) but now look what is happening — this is doublespeak.”

The BJP has also been criticised for the mismatch between seeking support from a rape accused and its much-publicised Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign.

Kanda, the owner of Golden Globe Hotels and the Big Daddy casino in Goa, tried to take full advantage of the fractured political landscape in the state to boost his own political career, which had suffered a setback when Geetika Sharma, a former air hostess with his MDLR Airlines had committed suicide and accused him of harassment.

In the 1990s, Kanda and his brother, Govind, used to work at their radio handsets-repair shop. Soon after, they ventured into the shoe-making business and opened a factory in Sirsa.

Kanda got in touch with the former Chief Minister Bansi Lal. But the bonhomie did not last long after Lal’s government fell. He switched sides to join the Chautalas. Kanda’s political clout skyrocketed when Om Prakash Chautala took over as the CM in 1999.

In 2007, Kanda entered the aviation business with MDRL Airline, named after his father Murli Dhar Lakh Ram. It did not prove too successful, with the airline grounded in two years.

Kanda won the Sirsa seat as an Independent candidate in 2009, after Indian National Lok Dal refused him a ticket. Bhupinder Singh Hooda, after falling short of majority, offered him the portfolio of minister for state for home affairs.

But even as he was a minister, Kanda was arrested in August 2012 in the Geetika Sharma suicide case. Geetika’s mother also committed suicide in 2013.

Despite the serious charges, Kanda managed to get bail in 2014. The Delhi High Court dropped the sexual harassment charges against him, but the abetment to suicide case is still pending.

There are other property-related cases against Kanda and his bother as well. In the 2014 Assembly elections, he founded HLP and contested all the 90 seats in Haryana but drew a blank.

This time, however, the BJP found it more comfortable to forge an alliance with the JJP than to convince all Independent MLAs. 

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