Asserting that he was in no way connected to the Adarsh housing society scam, ex-babu Uttam Khobragade strongly defended himself on Day 1 of his political career, projecting himself as an Ambedkerite and a leader of the Dalit community.
Khobragade, 63, who retried from service in 2011, joined the Republican Party of India (A) on Tuesday in presence of party chief Ramdas Athawale. RPI (A) had extended moral and political support to Khobragade when his daughter and diplomat Devyani was arrested in the US last December for alleged visa fraud. She was later released.
"Purchasing a flat in Adarsh society is not a crime, so don't defame me. Neither the judicial commission nor the three CBI charge sheets have indicted me. I did not touch a single file related to Adarsh," Khobragade said, lashing out at media persons during a press conference, when they asked party leaders about fielding Khobragade considering the controversy surrounding him.
A 1984 batch IAS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, who has served as Mhada CEO, he is seeking to contest from the Dharavi assembly seat, which is reserved for scheduled castes, and is currently held by Congress leader and minister of women and child development Varsha Gaikwad.
When asked why he joined RPI (A), Khobragade said, "I have always been an Ambedkerite, even when I was in service. Joining RPI (A) was a natural culmination of my 40 years of public service. Also, there is democracy within the party, which is what attracted me to it."
However, when asked about the caste factor's ability to win, especially since Dalit leaders Mayawati and Lalu Prasad Yadav's parties fell flat in the Lok Sabha elections, Khobragade said, "Dalit identity is not about winning elections, it is about uplifting the society, which is yet to come to mainstream despite all economic reforms."
Slamming Congress, Khobragade blamed the party for mishandling Devyani's case. Without hiding his bitterness, he said, "No Dalit, who has self-respect, would support Congress, which was leading the UPA government during my daughter's case. Congress also maligned our country's image globally by purchasing Rs2,500 crore worth military aircraft from the US post Devyani's case."