A member of the RSS since his teenage years who also claims to be a follower of Bhagat Singh, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, the leader of the BJP who was arrested by Punjab police on Friday, first came into the limelight when he attacked Prashant Bhushan over a statement made by the lawyer on Kashmir in October 2011.
Bhushan had called for a Kashmir referendum, sparking a political struggle. “If anyone says Kashmir should be given to Pakistan, then people will do the same with it,” he told The Indian Express earlier.
On Friday, Bagga, who targeted Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal for his comments on ‘The Kashmir Files’, was picked up from his West Delhi residence and later arrested in connection with a case filed on 1 April by the police’s Punjab Cyber Cell for allegedly making “provocative statements, encouraging religious enmity and criminal intimidation”.
A Delhi BJP spokesperson since 2017, Bagga is National Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP. In the last Assembly elections, his name was stripped from the seat of Tilak Nagar, from where he sought to run, but was later welcomed by Hari Nagar after the BJP’s alliance with the Shiromani broke down. Akali Dal.
Bagga, who began his political career with a lesser-known party, the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (BSKS), used his Twitter account, on which he has almost a million followers, to constantly attack CM Arvind Kejriwal. In the past, he has also called for a boycott of several celebrities, calling them “anti-national” in addition to trolling them with provocative statements and slurs.
On March 30, Bagga was part of a protest by BJYM members outside Kejriwal’s official residence during which the gates of the CM house were defaced.
In 2011, Bagga made headlines when he burst into an event at the India Habitat Center in Delhi and disrupted the book launch of author Arundhati Roy, calling her works “azaadi anti-army and pro-Kashmir”. The following year, he was accused of heckling Syed Ali Shah Geelani at an event organized by the Center for Development Studies in Delhi.
His outfit had also defaced the walls around the Pakistan High Commission and put up posters calling for freedom for Balochistan.
His other antics include putting up posters with controversial content, including one in which he called Rajiv Gandhi “the father of mob lynching”.
Bagga runs an online store called “T-Shirt Bhaiya” which sells T-shirts and jewelry with nationalist slogans. One of the t-shirts sold on the site bore an image of the controversial human shield incident in Kashmir in which Major Leetul Gogoi tied a person to a jeep as a shield against stone peelers.
Bagga had said earlier in his defence, “I have always taken a stand for the country. I went on a hunger strike for eight days to demand justice for Nirbahaya and I went on another hunger strike to demand action against those responsible for the 1984 Sikh massacre.”
In 2015, his outfit Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena launched an online news and opinion blog called “NaMo Patrika” dedicated to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the same year, he was among the BJP social media influencers who met PM Modi at his official residence. Two years later, he was appointed as the party’s spokesperson to attract young people ahead of the MCD polls.
Party insiders say Bagga caused a stir in party circles when, during elections in West Bengal in May last year, he visited the state and was among the BJP workers who were ‘arrested’ by state police following clashes between TMC and BJP workers during Amit Shah’s Roadshow in Calcutta.
A BJP leader said Bagga’s ability to create buzz was first noticed by senior central leaders when he was in Varanasi for a month during the BJP’s 2014 campaign. He had then distributed T-shirts to tea sellers with the slogan “Why can’t a tea seller be a PM”.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he was in charge of MP Parvesh Verma’s campaign in Delhi and has been credited in party circles for crafting social media strategies.