How Roshan Baig fell out of favour with Congress, BJP

From minister to political untouchable: How Roshan Baig fell out of favour with Congress, BJP

Seen as a ‘pariah’, ‘dumped politically’ by both parties

Former Minister Roshan Baig. Credit: DH Photo

In October 2017, R Roshan Baig, who was then a minister in the Siddaramiah-led Congress government, hurled an expletive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a speech he made in Tamil, a language widely spoken in Shivajinagar, the constituency he represented. 

Cut to May 2019, Baig had begun warming up to the BJP, even appealing to Muslims that they should join hands with the saffron party.

Last week, Baig was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the multi-crore I-Monetary Advisory (IMA) scam, casting a dark cloud on his rather colourful 35-year political career, leaving his future uncertain. 

A seven-time legislator, Baig made his electoral debut in 1985 as a candidate of the erstwhile undivided Janata Dal because the Congress denied him a ticket. He won and became a minister. He lost his second election in 1989 but maintained a victory run ever since: 1994, 1999, 2004 (from Jayamahal constituency), 2008, 2013 and 2018.  

In 1999, when the Janata Dal split into two, Baig joined the Congress. 

Outside politics, Baig’s family used to run Siasat, an Urdu daily, and he chairs the Bismillah Education Trust. 

Not new to controversy

But Baig is not new to controversies.

In 2004, Baig resigned as a minister from the S M Krishna government after he was linked to the stamp paper racket. In the 1990s, Baig, then a minister, came under fire for paying ‘homage’ to slain rowdy Koli Fayaz. 

His relationship with the Congress started souring last year. Baig perhaps got a whiff of the Congress’ poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections and began airing his grievance with the party’s leadership publicly. He even called leaders names — ‘buffoon’ and ‘flow-show’.

At that time, Baig wanted the ticket to contest from the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha seat and was sulking that he was not made a minister in the Congress-JD(S) coalition. 

Baig was among the 17 legislators who were disqualified last year under the anti-defection law.

And when investigators of the IMA case came knocking on his door, Baig is said to have knocked at the BJP’s door, but to no avail.

Political analyst Muzaffar Assadi called Baig a “pariah” who has been “dumped politically by both the Congress and the BJP”.  

“There is not an iota of support for him, considering the nature of the case. Nobody can defend him, saying he is innocent,” Assadi says, noting that Baig, despite his potential to be a Muslim leader, did not grow beyond the confines of his constituency.

Also, the IMA scam affected mainly Muslim depositors who lost money, denting Baig’s image in the community. 

After his expulsion, Baig’s supporters projected him as the BJP candidate from Shivajinagar for the 2019 bypolls. The BJP, however, fielded former councillor M Saravana, who lost. 

“Baig quit the Congress due to internal strife and not because he was given any assurance,” Cooperation Minister S T Somashekhar, one of the 17 rebels, said.

Many Congress leaders have maintained a measured silence over his arrest.

One theory speculates that Baig will join the BJP, if he gets a clean chit in the IMA case. “But right now, it looks like he needs a magic lamp,” Assadi says. “Only a miracle can save his political career.”