In a blow to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in Chhattisgarh ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled at the end of the year, senior tribal leader Nand Kumar Sai on Sunday resigned from the party to end an association of more than four decades.
State BJP chief Arun Sao confirmed the development and said the party was unable to contact Sai at present but it would make all efforts to clear any misunderstanding he has.
Sai (77), a former two-time Lok Sabha MP and three-time MLA, had served as the party's state president in both Chhattisgarh and undivided Madhya Pradesh in the past.
In his resignation letter, Sai said his colleagues were hatching conspiracies and levelling false allegations to tarnish his image, which had left him deeply hurt.
"I am resigning from the primary membership of the BJP and all posts. Whatever responsibilities the party gave me I discharged them with full dedication. I express my gratitude to the party for it," he said.
Chhattisgarh Congress communication wing chief Sushil Anand Shukla said a "knowledgeable, polite and tolerant leader" like Sai leaving the party was a sign that the BJP was humiliating and neglecting tribal leaders.
"If he has left the party it means BJP is neglecting this very big class (tribals), which Sai could not tolerate,” Shukla said.
Sai, a prominent tribal face of the party who hails from north Chhattisgarh, was first elected as a Janata Party MLA in 1977 from the Tapkara seat (now in Jashpur district) in Madhya Pradesh.
In 1980, he was elected as BJP's Raigarh district unit chief. He was elected as BJP MLA from Tapkara in 1985 and 1998 for the second and third time.
He was elected as Lok Sabha MP from Raigarh in 1989, 1996, and 2004 and Rajya Sabha MP in 2009 and 2010.
Sai was Chhattisgarh BJP president from 2003-05, and MP BJP chief from 1997 to 2000.
He was the first Leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh Assembly after the state was carved out from MP in November 2000.
Sai was appointed as the chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) in 2017.