Heat is on as BJP corners Congress over Atiq Ahmed

Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje hits out at Congress as she claims party star campaigner Imran Pratapgarhi used to call gangster Atiq ‘guru’

NEW DELHI | Updated: 20 April, 2023 11:12 pm IST
Union Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare Shobha Karandlaje

While heatwave conditions shrouded pockets of the country, Karnataka is currently facing a political heatwave as it gears up for an assembly election on May 10.

The movement of some veteran political leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to Congress, following the ruling party’s decision to move on from them, had set the ball rolling.

On Thursday, the BJP took strong objection to the inclusion of Congress Rajya Sabha member Imran Pratapgarhi in the party’s list of 40-star campaigners.

Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje alleged that Pratapgarhi has a connection with notorious gangster Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf, who were killed in Prayagraj last Saturday.

“Gangster Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf were his (Imran Pratapgarhi’s) friends. Imran used to call them brothers. Congress has kept him on the list of star campaigners for Karnataka polls, which shows Congress is in support of criminals and anti-nationals, said Karandlaje, who is a Lok Sabha member representing Udupi Chikmagalur constituency.

Karandlaje, who is the Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, also alleged that Pratapgarhi used to call Ahmed his “guru”.

She also sought to know the “connection” between Congress and slain gangster-politician Atiq.

“The MP used to write poetry in praise of Atiq, who used to take part in ‘mushairas’. Despite knowing that Pratapgarhi was involved in ‘anti-national activities’, you (Congress) sent him to the Rajya Sabha and appointed him as Karnataka’s star campaigner,” Karandlaje, who is the BJP’s Karnataka Election Management Committee convener, said.

Other BJP leaders, including the party’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra, also criticised the decision to include Pratapgarhi among Congress’s star campaigners for the Karnataka elections.

BJP leader Amit Malviya on Thursday tweeted a video of Pratapgarhi, in which he was seen praising Atiq Ahmed. The video tweeted by Malviya also shows Atiq visiting Pratapgarhi’s residence and attending a feast in 2015.

Malviya tweeted, “Imran Pratapgarhi, Rahul Gandhi’s handpicked member of the Rajya Sabha and Congress’s star campaigner in Karnataka, is an apologist for don and now murdered criminal Atiq Ahmed.”

Karnataka will vote in a single phase on May 10 and the results are scheduled to be out on May 13.

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