The rumblings in the Samajwadi Party refused to die down with a defiant party Member of Parliament Raj Babbar ruling out his resignation and insisting on removal of party stalwart Amar Singh for promoting "broker culture" and "maligning" the socialist moorings of the party.
He, however, spared party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav from criticism and targetted only Amar Singh. "Amar Singh represents the broker culture. I definitely want the removal of this face from the legacy left behind by Choudhary Charan Singh and Ram Manohar Lohia and ably carried forward by Mulayam Singh Yadav," Babbar said in an interview to PTI.
Babbar who has recently come under attack from party leaders for his carping criticism of Singh, dismissed demands from leaders including Ram Gopal Yadav for his resignation. "Why should I resign? he shot back. "Nobody, except the people of Agra, have any right to ask me to resign the Lok Sabha seat. The Samajwadi Party leaders definitely have no right. But I would like to say very humbly that I am ready to face any candidate from any constituency in Uttar Pradesh or elsewhere other than the chief minister to show what I am", Babbar said.
Asked what he thought of Yadav promoting Amar Singh, Babbar skirted a directed answer but said "the chief minister has been surrounded by one controversy after another ever since his association with Amar Singh".
Babbar said Yadav was regarded as the "sole leader" against fundamentalism and the minorities had "full faith" in him to protect their rights. But questions were now being raised about party helping the Bharatiya Janata Party and weakening the party's secular credentials, he said.
Babbar said Mulayam Singh has "slogged all his life" to protect the interests of minorities and weaker sections and in building Samajwadi Party.
But "what has been Amar Singh's contribution?" he asked and went on to add that the only "contribution" has been towards "weakening" the party's struggle against fundamentalist and communal forces.
Clearly in an unrelenting mood on the Amar Singh issue, Babbar said he was ready to take on any party leader other than Yadav from Agra, anywhere in Uttar Pradesh or even outside the state.
"I will request the party leadership to accept this challenge and decide a Lok Sabha constituency and a candidate and I will show my status and political clout", he said. "Why should I resign my Lok Sabha seat. What has been Samajwadi Party's position before I contested the seat. Did the SP ever win this seat. I am ready to resign the seat if the people of Agra wanted so. No SP leader has right to ask me to vacate the seat", Babbar said.
Babbar, a second time MP from Agra, said his protest against people like Amar Singh was that "middlemen and brokers cannot be ideal for the party or the country. If it is so why then fight against Quattrocchi (Bofors case) or Sukhram (telecom scam). Babbar said he would be approaching leaders of other political parties to ensure that "middlemen and brokers" were not encouraged and allowed to run their parties.