Will BJP’s dream run in UP face legal hurdles?

Lucknow, June 2: Is the BJP‘s dream run in Uttar Pradesh, where it won a staggering 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, under threat? As many as 22 of the newly elected MPs who face serious criminal charges may lose their parliament seat if they are convicted under the Supreme Court directive of wrapping up cases related to lawmakers within one year.

An apex court bench chaired by Justice R.M. Lodha (now Chief Justice of India) had March 10 ruled that all cases faced by MPs should be heard promptly and the judicial process completed within one year. The bench also ruled that cases under sections 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act should be heard daily and the verdicts pronounced in not more than a year.

Among the leading BJP MPs in trouble are Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Niranjan Bharti. Uma Bharti, a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, is accused of making inflammatory speeches, inciting hatred and rioting. Joshi battles similar charges.

Both can be jailed for up to two years if the charges are proved. Sakshi Maharaj, another senior BJP MP, is accused of murder, dacoity and attempt to murder. Lallu Singh, MP from Faizabad, is charged with dacoity, obstructing government work and tampering with evidence.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Qaiserganj MP, has several serious cases slapped on him. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) confirms that the number of MPs from Uttar Pradesh facing serious criminal charges is 22.

Other BJP MPs who face such charges include Ram Shankar Katheria, Ajay Kumar, Bhairon Prasad Mishra, Keshav Prasad, Kunwar Bhartendu, Sanjeev Baliyan, Sadhvi Niranjan Bharati, Kaushal Kishore, Bharat Singh, Harishchandra Dwivedi, Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar, Babulal and Rajendra Agarwal.

BJP ally Apna Dal’s two MPs – Anupriya Patel and Kunwar Harivansh Singh – too face major criminal charges. What could be worrying for the BJP is that charge sheets have been filed against 15 of the MPs. BJP leaders, however, trash the charges and say all the cases against the MPs were politically motivated and would not stand scrutiny in courts.

“We gave Lok Sabha ticket to the MPs only when we were convinced that the cases had political overtones,” Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the BJP Uttar Pradesh spokesman, told IANS. MP Lallu Singh said: “I have full faith in the judiciary. I am sure I will be cleared during the trial.”

Ashok Pandey, an Etawah-based lawyer, however, says that the bravado of these MPs could be of little help to them. “They may say antyhing but the fact remains that a real threat of conviction stares at them.”