New Delhi (IANS) Former Odisha chief minister Giridhar Gamang met BJP president Amit Shah at his official residence here on Friday, clearing the decks for the veteran Congress leader to join the ruling party.
“After BJP leaders considered it fit that Giridhar Gamang is acceptable in the party, they welcomed me,” Gamang told reporters after meeting Shah.
The 72-year-old leader was accompanied by his son Sisir to the meeting where union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJP’s Odisha incharge Arun Singh were also present.
Citing “humiliation” by the party since 1999, the nine-time MP from Koraput resigned from the primary membership of the Congress on May 30 after an association lasting more than four decades.
Gamang, whose vote was seen as having toppled the 13-month-old Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government in 1999, said that he was happy at joining the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“I am happy that the party whose government whom I had been blamed of bringing down has accepted me. This is the biggest thing. This is in a way clean chit for me. The party in which I spent over 40 years did not clarify the matter,” Gamang told IANS.
Gamang, who was then Odisha chief minister, had turned up in Lok Sabha to participate in the trust vote against the Vajpayee government. He had not resigned his Lok Sabha membership as he had been chief minister for about two months and took part in voting despite protests by BJP members.
The Vajpayee government lost the vote by 269 to 270 votes.
Congress leader Saifudin Soz, who was then in the National Conference, had also voted against the Vajpayee government.
Reacting to Gamang’s entry into the BJP, a Congress leader in Bhubaneswar dubbed him an “opportunistic”.
Interestingly, Gamang confided that talks between him and BJP leaders about his entry into the party were on for nearly six months, even though he had maintained after his resignation that he “would not join any other party”.
“Till a formal and final decision is taken, it is not proper to go public with such things,” he said.
Gamang maintained he would accept any post given by his new party and work with the state party leaders in Odisha. He also hoped that the people of Odisha would support his decision.
Gamang’s son said they would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming days.
Pradhan said: “Giridhar-ji is an experienced leader and skilled organiser. While his presence will strengthen our party, the tribal leader’s exit from the Congress gives a message that the party is sinking across the country.”
However attacking Gamang, Narasingh Mishra, leader of opposition in the Odisha legislative assembly and leader of the Congress Legislature Party, said: “Giridhar Gamang is an opportunistic politician. He joined the BJP to serve his interests, ignoring the contribution of the Congress in his public life. This shows that the Congress never ignored him as claimed by him.”