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BJP greets ‘brave’ Kulkarni

New Delhi, Nov. 19: Nitin Gadkari laid it on thick for Sudheendra Kulkarni at a special programme to felicitate him and three others who walked out of Tihar jail on bail in the cash-for-votes scam.

A source close to Gadkari said it was a “matter of time” before Kulkarni would be re-inducted in the BJP this time to “advise” the party president on “ideological and policy issues”.

The former IITian, who became a journalist before joining the BJP in 1996, went on to become L.K. Advani’s political aide. He was an official in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s PMO and was regarded as a power centre in the NDA regime because of his perceived proximity to Advani and because of the official position he held.

Kulkarni hit a low when he scripted Advani’s pro-Jinnah remarks that the BJP veteran articulated in Karachi in 2005. Although the BJP distanced itself from him, he never sundered links with Advani, his political mentor.

After the BJP’s electoral debacle in 2009, with Advani as the centrepiece, the party shook off Kulkarni because privately several leaders felt he had botched up the campaign. He later publicly stated he had nothing to do with the BJP.

As the railway minister, Mamata Banerjee put him on an advisory panel. The appointment sparked off speculation that the Trinamul Congress was Kulkarni’s next pit stop. “I was never with Trinamul,” he clarified today. In any case, he was on the board briefly.

His association with Mamata dated back to the NDA era. As a BJP ally, she often kept the party on tenterhooks. When there was a Mamata-inspired crisis, Vajpayee despatched Kulkarni to Calcutta to pacify her.

Today, Gadkari lauded Kulkarni as the “best journalist” he had known in 30 years and demanded an apology from the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi for his “wrongful” arrest.

After swathing the accused with shawls and greeting them with bouquets, the praises gushed forth. Kulkarni and the others were extolled by general secretary Vijay Goel as “brave warriors”.

Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, who twice visited them in Tihar, said: “Parliament should have honoured these brave sons that very day instead of putting them in jail.” A Rajya Sabha MP thought Kulkarni, Argal and the others were worthy of “Padma awards”.

Sources said Gadkari was constantly on the phone with Kulkarni after he walked out of Tihar yesterday.

Asked if like the prodigal son he was set to return home, Kulkarni said: “That’s not on my mind. But I will be active in social and political life. The BJP was 100 per cent helpful to me through all this.”

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