With Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, BJP bets big on experience to take on Kejriwal

Ramvir Singh Bidhuri (centre) hails from Tughlakabad village, northeast Delhi.
When the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, one of its eight MLAs in the city-state, will be Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, many, especially the young who are not clued in about his volatile career in Delhi politics, were taken aback.

His name for the job was proposed by BJP leader Vijender Gupta, who is considered his disciple. Gupta was his predecessor in the Assembly’s previous term.

He has had a tortuous journey in associating himself with political parties, be it the Congress, Janata Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Lok Janshakti Party, and now BJP. Political observers say although he is a “here today, gone tomorrow” type, people who know him are of the view that that he does so to keep himself in the swim.

Bidhuri hails from Tughlakabad village, northeast Delhi. He had a good following in the Gurjar-dominated Badarpur seat, and won there on the ticket of the Janata Dal (1993), the NCP (2003), and the BJP (2013 and 2020) but lost whenever he contested on the Congress ticket.

Bidhuri is the most experienced among those who are in active politics in Delhi and a prominent face among the Gurjars. BJP sources say the party is realising its mistake of not having him as its chief ministerial candidate in 2013, when the party got 32 seats, closely followed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with 28. Sources say around six winning candidates of the Congress were willing to be with the BJP if Bidhuri were allowed to give it a go. It is said that Arun Jaitley scotched this possibility. Then Nitin Gadkari supported Bidhuri and according to sources, he is still close to Gadkari, who thinks that he has been ignored.

BJP sources say if Bidhuri became chief minister then, Kejriwal would not have risen so fast in the politics of Delhi. Now the BJP thinks he may be a challenge to the chief minister in the Assembly and the wider politics of Delhi.

He was close to former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal in the early 1980s and also to Indira Gandhi, with whom he could be seen (unfortunately for him, those were pre-selfie days). She made him chairman of Haryana Warehousing Corporation with rank of Cabinet minister, a job he did very well. He wormed into the good graces of V P Singh too, and was also associated with Kanshiram, the founder of the BSP.

The early leaders of Delhi were Chaudhary Brahm Prakash, H K L Bhagat, and Madanlal Khurana. Bhagat was very popular in Delhi in the 1980s. Development work in East Delhi was prominently by him. His career declined after losing in East Delhi in 1991 and an important factor behind his defeat was none other than Bidhuri, who split the Gurjar vote. When Delhi got its first Assembly in its current constitutional form in 1993, Bidhuri won from the Badarpur constituency as a Janata Dal candidate. The party had four MLAs and almost 18 per cent of the vote.

In 2003 there were chances of Khurana becoming Opposition leader but that did not happen. He could have posed problems for then chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who was seen as an outsider because her father-in-law was a politician in UP. Khurana grew out of the thickets of Delhi politics and had a commerce with bureaucrats. Sources say whatever role Khurana could have played then, Bidhuri could perform it now.

He left the Congress by rebelling against Dikshit because he criticised her working style and brought corruption charges against her. Though his rebellion had some initial heft, it meandered into sluggish waters and spent itself. Dikshit, after all, had the blessings of the top leader of the party.

Bidhuri has a way with the bureaucracy. Under his guidance seven corporators were elected in 2012. He has counselled Ajay Maken, Arvinder Singh Lovely, and Harun Yusuf. Whenever they needed any suggestion they used to talk to Dada Bidhuri. His political career is a story of ambition and good connections, and now he has something to cheer about.

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