While there is a political uproar over Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s visit to a Christian event to be held in Moga city of the state today, few have noticed or studied the person whose face appears next to his on the poster. No, not the former criminal who now calls himself ‘Prophet’. It’s the face with the caption “Ashok President”.
The man was once known as Ashok Pradhan, a member of the Scheduled Castes who was the MP from Noida during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee years.
Ashok Kumar Pradhan-turned-President stood for the 1996 Lok Sabha election on a BJP ticket and was elected MP from the Noida-Khurja constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He was the minister of state in the third Vajpayee ministry with different portfolios: consumer affairs — food and public distribution, human resources and development.
Indicating that, along the lines of self-styled Kancha Ilaiah-turned-Shepherd, a sizeable chunk of the Scheduled Caste population — including their prominent faces — is now embracing Christianity, violating the belief system of BR Ambedkar who had categorically ruled out this religion along with Islam when he became a Buddhist, Ashok President is among the VIPs attending the event starring convict Bajinder Singh ‘Prophet’ who runs a conversion racket in the country with his focus on Punjab and Haryana.
While touted to have been involved in various social works as a Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha activist since his early life, Ashok Pradhan was introduced to politics by his elder brother Gyan Chand, who had contested an election under the Republican Party of India, from Khureji in Trans-Yamuna, Delhi, in 1967. Gyan Chand joined the Jana Sangh subsequently.
Ashok Pradhan gained prominence in 1993 when Gyan Chand was elected as an MLA.
Pradhan, who is now President, founded the Dr Ambedkar Thrift & Credit Society in 1985 in his home village. He claimed he would bring an end to the existing ‘sahukar pratha‘ (a system of vassals and serfs). As the NGO is run by the villagers of Ghondli, it can be expected that Ashok has by now converted many of them.
During his term as the MoS for telecommunication and information technology, headed then by Arun Shourie, he initiated the first mobile service ever in Kashmir and the Northeast. He also held the position of a national-level secretary of the BJP.
Ashok Pradhan lost the 2009 election and was then seen on news channels on television supporting and speaking on behalf of the BJP for a while until, in April 2014, he joined the Samajwadi Party. He came back to the BJP on 13 January 2017 and then left the party again.
Having also been in the Standing Committee of Home Affairs, Standing Committee SC/ST welfare, Consultative Committee — Labour & Employment and as a member of the Delhi University Court, Ashok Pradhan has a truck with the government machinery.
However, sources said he was appreciated in the BJP for his “fund-raising” capability. When Arun Jaitley was around, a source said, Ashok Pradhan was seen as his protégé.
The aforementioned NGO was not Pradhan’s only claim to fame or money. He gave shape to other avenues like the Ambedkar Gram Sudhar Samiti and Sakshee Udyog.
The event Chief Minister Channi is attending at 7:30 PM today has this ‘Prophet’, jailed once for rape, as the star attraction. Bajinder Singh, who will star in the program, claims he has miraculously healed sick people by calling himself a messenger of Jesus Christ.
The ‘Prophet’ has served a jail term in a case of rape. His jail term ended when the victim retracted from her statement.
A video of the ‘Prophet’ went viral on social media on 24 November. In the promotional video released on the official YouTube channel of Bajinder Singh, he claims “You will be happy to know that the branch of ‘Prophet Bajinder Singh Ministry’ is now going to open in your own city Moga with a grand opening on 25 November. A huge satsang (religious congregation) is being organised on this occasion.”
The YouTube video does not reveal who has been invited as the chief guest at the event.
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal condemned Chief Minister Channi, calling him an operative of a sand mafia. Badal said that Channi, who claims to be working on ending the sand mafia from Punjab, “is himself the biggest sand mafia man in his area and also a coloniser”.
Badal said that if Chief Minister Channi wanted to make sand cheap in Punjab and eliminate the mafia, Navjot Singh Sidhu will first have to put his own party MLAs, along with Chief Minister Channi, in jail.