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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

Meet the chocolate boy of Shahjahanpur

Kumkum Chadha, Hindustan Times   June 22, 2009
First Published: 00:24 IST(22/6/2009) | Last Updated: 00:25 IST(22/6/2009)
When Jitin Prasada declared that his would be love rather than an arranged marriage, his mother went into a tizzy: “Who is the girl? Where is she?”

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No one knows. The young minister isn't saying. He will only say he is ready for marriage. “Now is the time. I am at ease and feel settled”. A politician wife? “Oh god no…would be too much to handle…I need a getaway”.

And his freedom can't be negotiated. “I should.”he told HT, “be able to walk in and out of my house without any questions asked.”

She has had it if she is a vegetarian. Prasad grew up on meats and his mother had a harrowing time explaining cholesterol to the men in the family.  To Jitin Prasada vegetarianism means eating potatoes.

Yet he claims he is an easy, cool guy to deal with.

Prasada was 27 when his father, Jitendra Prasad, a Congress leader, died.

Life changed overnight. He quit his corporate job to be with his mother and later help her fight an election.

When she lost, he decided to stay back and change the perception of their being “Dilliwallahs” (belonging to Delhi) Given Jitin Prasada’s urban upbringing and Doon school education, this was more true about him than his parents.

His royal lineage gave him what the Samajwadi Party’s Shashank Yadav calls a “touch-me-not” image, far removed from that of a commoner.

Prasada’s grandmother was born to the royal family of Kapurthala in Punjab. There is also a Tagore connection. His great grandmother is Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s niece. Born as Sudakshna Thakur, hers was the first inter-caste marriage in the family. That made her Purnima Devi.

Within the Congress, his father’s rebellion against Mrs Sonia Gandhi was never forgotten. Jitendra Prasada had challenged Mrs Sonia Gandhi and contested for the Congress President’s post.

In Shahjahanpur, their native place in Uttar Pradesh, their ancestral house is called ‘Bare Baba ki Kothi (Big Man’s Bungalow)’. The kothi is akin to the feudalism associated with the Prasadas.

Jitendra Prasad’s death got them sympathy but not the confidence of the people. However, by the time Jitin Prasada took the plunge the tide had turned. In 2004 he was an MP and within three years a minister: the youngest in Manmohan  Singh’s Cabinet.

Prasada was visibly unhappy when his constituency changed from Shahjahanpur to neighbouring Dhaurahra. The delimitation exercise, which redrew electoral boundaries, declared Shahjahanpur a reserved constituency.

Just as well because Shahjahanpur may have proved tough for him. Despite Prasada’s representing this constituency in the last Lok Sabha, his party candidate lost this time.

“Congress candidates” says Yadav, “won from the entire belt of Dhaurahra-Khiri-Bharaich-Maharajganj but lost Shahjahanpur”.  His take: Prasada unpopularity took its toll. “A sure win” says Pradeep Pandey, also from the Samajwadi party: “Glamour and family,” Pandey told HT. 

“Only chocolate boy image” says Yadav on Prasada’s win from Dhaurahra, a new turf. That and his dangling the “minister lollipop” Yadav said “He was a minister in the last Cabinet, so people felt that if Congress won, they would get an MP-minister”.


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