Shoe attack episode returns to haunt BJP in poll season

BJP had been left red-faced after its sitting MP Sharad Tripathi thrashed party legislator Rakesh Baghel with shoes in the midst of an official meeting in Sant Kabir Nagar district. (Screen grab)

The infamous 'shoe attack' episode last month, that had embarrassed the BJP, threatened to acquire caste overtones giving jitters to the saffron party in Gorakhpur region, the bastion of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

BJP had been left red-faced after its sitting MP Sharad Tripathi thrashed party legislator Rakesh Baghel with shoes in the midst of an official meeting in Sant Kabir Nagar district, barely 30 kilometres from Gorakhpur, the home town of Adityanath.

Tripathi, who was said to be angry over the exclusion of his name from the foundation stone of some projects in the district, repeatedly hit Baghel with a shoe as a senior UP minister, cops and other officials watched in shock and dismay.

Baghel too retaliated and managed to slap the MP a few times before the cops intervened and separated the two.

Apparently fearing that action against either the MP or the MLA could have serious political repercussions, the BJP asked both the leaders to bury their differences.

The episode, however, has returned to haunt the BJP in the ongoing polls season. Supporters of Baghel, who hailed from 'Thakur' community and a close confidante of Adityanath, disrupted a meeting of their own party in Sant Kabir Nagar on Friday in protest against the presence of Tripathi.

They broke chairs and dismantled the stage forcing the senior leaders to beat a hasty retreat.

Tripathi, who hailed from a prominent 'brahmin' family in the region, has refused to apologise for his action and their differences have now acquired caste overtones dividing 'Thakurs' and 'brahmins' in the region much to the discomfort of the BJP.

BJP now finds itself caught between a rock and hard place and the party has not so far declared its candidate from Sant Kabir Nagar LS seat. ''Brahmins may desert us if Tripathi is denied renomination...on the other hand, his renomination may irk the Thakur community,'' said a state BJP leader here.

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