Door open for friend, says BJP; not join­ing any party, coun­ters Phoolka

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - HTMETRO - HT Cor­re­spon­dent htre­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: Union min­is­ter Vi­jay Goel on Sun­day said the doors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are al­ways open to for­mer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader HS Phoolka while fe­lic­i­tat­ing him for fight­ing the le­gal bat­tle for vic­tims of 1984 anti-sikh ri­ots.

But Phoolka,61, while ac­knowl­edg­ing his “close­ness” to sev­eral top BJP lead­ers, ruled out join­ing any po­lit­i­cal party at the mo­ment. The se­nior ad­vo­cate said he would not con­test the up­com­ing Lok Sabha polls, not even as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date. “The BJP has al­ways sup­ported me in my fight for an­ti­Sikh ri­ots vic­tims. From law min­is­ter Ravi Shankar Prasad, home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh, fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley to se­nior BJP leader LK Ad­vani – all have sup­ported my stand on it and helped me from time to time,” Phoolka told re­porters dur­ing the event.

“But, I am clear that I am not join­ing any party,” he said.

Phoolka, who cited per­sonal rea­sons for quit­ting AAP ear­lier this month, said con­vert­ing an anti-cor­rup­tion move­ment into a po­lit­i­cal party was a mis­take.

The se­nior ad­vo­cate has been vo­cal about his op­po­si­tion to any al­liance be­tween the Con­gress and the AAP in Delhi, and his res­ig­na­tion fu­elled spec­u­la­tion that the two par­ties were try­ing to forge an al­liance to de­feat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elec- tions. Both the Con­gress and the AAP have dis­tanced them­selves from any talk of an al­liance.

Dur­ing the event, where Goel was fe­lic­i­tat­ing sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als for their con­tri­bu­tion in so­cial ser­vice, the Union min­is­ter said Phoolka was a “good man” and a “friend” who fought to give jus­tice to the vic­tims of the 1984 anti-sikh ri­ots. “It does not mat­ter that he was as­so­ci­ated with AAP. He is a good per­son who did a good thing. That is why we are fe­lic­i­tat­ing him. Peo­ple ask me, if he will join my party. BJP wants all good peo­ple should join it. The doors of the party (BJP) are al­ways open for him. Now it is up to him if he wants to join,” Goel said.

Phoolka has pur­sued the an­ti­Sikh riot cases across courts for decades. The anti-sikh ri­ots had bro­ken out after the as­sas­si­na­tion of then Prime Min­is­ter Indira Gandhi on Oc­to­ber 31, 1984, by her two body­guards.

Phoolka quit as the leader of the Op­po­si­tion in the Pun­jab Assem­bly last year when the Delhi Bar Coun­cil ob­jected to his con­tin­u­ing with his prac­tice cit­ing con­flict of in­ter­est. “This [pur­su­ing the cases] was more im­por­tant to me,” he said.

On De­cem­ber 17, the high court con­victed and sen­tenced for­mer Con­gress leader Sa­j­jan Ku­mar to spend the re­main­der of his life in jail for his role in the anti-sikh ri­ots. In Novem­ber, a lower court sen­tenced one man to death while send­ing an­other to life im­pris­on­ment for their role in the ri­ots.

ARVIND YA­DAV/HT

Union min­is­ters Radha Mo­han Singh and Vi­jay Goel fe­lic­i­tate se­nior ad­vo­cate HS Phoolka on Sun­day.

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