Know Your Turncoats, Part 18: Coalgate accused, ‘anti-national’ ex-activist, former couple turned rivals

A series looking at the defectors contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

WrittenBy:Nikita Singh
Naveen Jindal, Soumendu Adhikari, Kanhaiya Kumar and Sujata Mondal.

Read previous stories in this series here.

A total of 23 turncoats are vying to secure Lok Sabha seats across 58 constituencies in the sixth phase of voting on May 25 – two from the Biju Janata Dal, nine from the BJP-led NDA, and 12 from the INDIA bloc.  

The turncoats count is the highest among Uttar Pradesh candidates at 10, out of which five jumped the ship from the Bahujan Samaj Party to the Samajwadi Party. The lowest is in Jharkhand where there are no turncoats in this phase. 

Of these 23, six defectors have been fielded by the BJP while six others were earlier part of the Congress. 

Let’s take a look at the heavyweights in this phase. 

Naveen Jindal: Rs 1,241 crore assets, 9 criminal cases, ex-Congressman

Naveen Jindal is the BJP candidate from Kurukshetra in Haryana. The 54-year-old billionaire industrialist and two-time MP is the chief of Jindal Steel and Power and the chancellor of OP Jindal Global University. 

Both his parents, OP Jindal and Savitri Jindal, served as legislators, while Naveen himself began his political career with the Congress in 1991. However, his first electoral contest was the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, in which he secured the Kurukshetra seat with a Congress ticket. He remained with the Congress party for the next 33 years until weeks before the ongoing polls. 

While he was still with the grand old party, Jindal won the 2009 polls and paved the path for the Food Security Act. Three years later, the CBI began its probe against the businessman-politician in an alleged coal scam case. The Congress-led coalition was defeated in the 2014 general elections. Jindal too lost in the polls.      

Jindal has been charged with criminal conspiracy and cheating, and was summoned for questioning several times over the past 10 years. A Delhi court framed charges against him in 2019. In January this year, the court allowed him to travel abroad. 

In 2014, Jindal had hoped to take on Narendra Modi’s “hyped image”, but after the latter came to power, the industrialist-politician has seemed pliant, appealing for “sustainable development” and even thanking Modi for “taking the coal sector out of decades of lockdown”. After joining the BJP in March this year, Jindal has doubled down his efforts to hype Modi, who in the former’s words is “phenomenal leadership” that has “propelled India onto the global stage, earning praise from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs for his transformative vision”.  Jindal’s X account also gives an occasional religious shoutout of “Sanatan dharm ki jai”. 

An MBA graduate from Texas University, Jindal has a total of nine pending criminal cases. His assets grew by 302 percent in the past 10 years – from Rs 308 crore in 2014 to Rs 1,241 crore in 2024. 

Soumendu Adhikari: Two-time MLA, Adhikari family scion, 6 cases 

Soumendu Adhikari is the BJP candidate from Kanthi in West Bengal. He switched from the TMC to the BJP in December 2021. The 41-year-old businessman is two-time MLA from Tamluk and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s brother. 

Soumendu, the scion of a politically influential family, began his electoral journey as the chairman of Kanthi municipality. Meanwhile, the Kanthi constituency elected his father and former union minister, Sishir Adhikari, for three consecutive terms, but always on a Trinamool Congress ticket.      

The junior Adhikari crossed over to the BJP ahead of the 2021 assembly polls, saying “there is no respect in the TMC. It is sad how the party is now under the control of such people”. He was rueful about the party “dishonouring his family” by calling his brother Suvendu “Mir Jafar”. Suvendu had switched to the BJP in December 2020, becoming a target of the TMC leaders who likened him to the Mughal military chief who famously betrayed Siraj ud-Daulah in the Battle of Plassey. 

Several members of the Adhikari family flocked to the saffron party in 2021. After Suvendu’s defection, Sishir was removed from his roles as chairman of the Digha-Shankarpur Development Council and president of TMC’s district unit and Soumendu was sacked from the municipality. Soon after they joined the BJP. 

In 2022, the state police lodged a corruption case against Soumendu for alleged misappropriation of funds while allotting 14 shops at Kanthi. Besides this, he has six pending cases against him, including criminal intimidation and cheating. His assets stand at Rs 2.61 crore as of April 2024.

On his X account, Soumendu has been accusing the INDIA alliance of “tax terrorism” and asserting that the Modi government stands against Mamata’s “divisive tactics”.   

Kanhaiya Kumar:  Ex-JNUSU president, sedition, CPI to Cong               

Kanhaiya Kumar is the Congress candidate from North East Delhi. The 37-year-old began his political journey with the left-wing student organisation All India Students’ Federation or AISF, which is often linked to the Communist Party of India. In 2016, he became president of the students’ union at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he was pursuing a PhD. 

He found himself mired in controversy when he and other students held a protest against the government’s hanging of Afzal Guru. After media channels claimed he had raised “anti-national” slogans, he was jailed on charges of sedition and then released.

Three years later, Kumar contested in the Lok Sabha polls as the CPI candidate from Begusarai in Bihar, but lost to the BJP’s Giriraj Singh. In 2021, he joined the Congress party, saying it was the most “democratic party, and I am emphasising on democratic...Not just me, but many think the country can't survive without Congress”.

Kumar has seven pending criminal cases, including assault on police, misconduct with a doctor on duty, and “seditious sloganeering”. Over the past five years, his assets increased by 92 percent – from Rs 5.5 lakh in 2019 to Rs 10.72 lakh in April 2024. His affidavit says his source of income is the “interest” and “royalty from publication” of his book From Bihar to Tihar.   

Sujata Mondal : Love in Cong, now a TMC vs BJP contest featuring ex-husband 

Sujata Mondal is the Trinamool Congress candidate from the reserved constituency of Bishnupur in West Bengal. The 38-year-old former schoolteacher’s first brush with politics was 14 years ago when she met her former husband Saumitra Khan, then a Congress leader. In 2014, the couple joined the TMC together and tied the knot two years later. 

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when Khan switched to the BJP, Mondal followed suit. The former bagged a BJP ticket from Bishnupur, but was simultaneously barred from entering the constituency by the Calcutta High Court in connection with an alleged cash-for-job scam. Then Mondal drove the election campaign and was credited for Khan’s victory. 

The couple publicly separated two years later after Mondal returned to the TMC ahead of the 2021 assembly polls. She alleged that “newly inducted, misfit and corrupt leaders” were getting more importance and that she got “nothing in return” for ensuring her husband’s victory. She also hoped that Khan too would return to the TMC. 

However, no reconciliation came through, and soon Khan announced in a press conference that he had filed for divorce. Now, they’ve been fielded by their respective parties from Bishnupur – Mondal by the TMC, Khan by the BJP – where they’ve been taking digs at each other in election rallies. Khan has dismissed Mondal as “greedy” and “not a political personality” and said he will “gouge their eyes out” if the TMC workers create any trouble. Meanwhile, Mondal has alleged that she “faced similar torture when I was living with him” and that he has “very low standard”. She also alleged that Khan did nothing in his constituency during his tenure.   

At an election rally, CM Mamata Banerjee also jumped into the slanderous exchange with a hot take. She said: “She [Mondal] is a bit Gablu-Goblu. Her ex-husband was too smart and that’s why left her…but I wonder how she chose to marry him.”

Mondal has two pending criminal cases and has recorded a five percent dip in her assets – from Rs 96 lakh in 2019 to Rs 91 lakh in 2024. 

Research assistance by Drishti Choudhary.

Also see
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 17: BJP MLA, ex-minister trying to ‘save Jharkhand’, an ‘outsider’ in UP
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 16: Bengal’s party hopper, 2 in Shinde camp, Bihar hot seat
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 15: NDA has 53% defectors in phase 5; 2 in Shinde camp after ED whip


We take comments from subscribers only!  Subscribe now to post comments! 
Already a subscriber?  Login

You may also like