Union Minister Anurag Thakur on Sunday took a swipe at political leaders joining Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party before next month's Uttar Pradesh election, calling them "rioters".
"Those who 'do' riots join Samajwadi Party, those who catch rioters join BJP... people with clean characters join BJP... and rioters with blood-covered hands join Samajwadi Party," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI at the induction of former Kanpur Police Commissioner Asim Arun.
#WATCH| People joining SP do riots, people joining BJP catch rioters. SP MLAs are either in jail or on bail, that's their original game. It's clear people with clean characters join BJP, & rioters including many with blood-covered hands join SP: Union Min Anurag Thakur in Lucknow pic.twitter.com/ceMHG9Wx9z— ANI UP/Uttarakhand (@ANINewsUP) January 16, 2022
His comment came hours after ex-BJP MLA Dara Singh Chauhan, for five years the Environment Minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, was welcomed into Mr Yadav's outfit.
The other ex-UP ministers to join the Samajwadi Party this week - Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini - led the Labour, and Ayush and Food Security ministries from January 2017 till they quit.
Several of the ex-MLAs who joined the Samajwadi Party - Vinay Shakya, Roshan Lal Verma, Mukesh Verma, and Bhagwati Sagar - have also been part of the Yogi Adityanath government since 2017.
Mr Thakur also mocked the Samajwadi Party over its list of candidates for the UP Assembly election, pointing out that the first name on the party's list is in jail and the second is out on bail.
"The real khel (game) of the Samajwadi Party is that the candidate is either in jail or on bail," he said.
The "in jail" candidate is Nahid Hassan, the sitting MLA from Kairana who was arrested Friday, while on his way to file nomination papers, in connection with a UP Gangsters Act case filed last year.
Mr Yadav, who has cancelled Mr Hassan's ticket for this election, called it a 'desperate attempt' to win and accused the BJP of framing his party leaders.
Nearly a dozen MLAs, many with considerable sway over OBC voters, have walked out of the BJP (and its ally Apna Dal) in a 72-hour period this week. This has been seen as blowing a hole in the party's re-election bid, given it relied on non-Yadav OBC votes to defeat Mr Yadav in 2017.
Mr Chauhan, who joined today, has blamed the BJP government in UP for ignoring the needs of backward classes and castes. Swami Prasad Maurya, who began the flood of defections Tuesday, told NDTV the BJP's UP government was "deaf to the problems of the backward classes".
For Mr Yadav, a former UP Chief Minister seen as the BJP's main rival for this election, the acquisition of these OBC leaders is a big boost as he looks to replicate its 2017 formula.
UP Chief Minister Adityanath - who will make his Assembly polls debut from his stronghold of Gorakhpur, hit back yesterday while being photographed eating lunch at a Dalit voter's home.
"Social exploitation" and not "social justice" was common in UP under the Samajwadi Party, he said.
UP will vote for a new government in a seven-phase poll that begins February 10. Results are expected on March 10.
With input from ANI