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Blow to Congress as Jitin Prasada joins BJP

Former Union minister and Congress leader Jitin Prasada on Wednesday made the switch to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and said that the ruling dispensation was “truly a national party” while other outfits remained about personalities or were confined to particular regions
By Smriti Kak Ramachandran, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUN 10, 2021 12:12 AM IST

Former Union minister and Congress leader Jitin Prasada on Wednesday made the switch to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and said that the ruling dispensation was “truly a national party” while other outfits remained about personalities or were confined to particular regions.

Joining the BJP in New Delhi in the presence of Union minister Piyush Goyal, Prasada said that “if there was any political party in the country today that worked in an institutional way... then it was the Bharatiya Janata Party”.

“Our family has been associated with the Congress for three generations, but during the last 8-10 years, I felt that if there is any national party, it is the BJP,” he added.

Prasada, who earlier met Union home minister Amit Shah, said other parties have been reduced to individuals or regional entities. The 47-year-old son of former Congress leader Jitendra Prasada called his move a new chapter in his political life and a well-thought-out decision.

He was part of a group of 23 leaders who wrote to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last year, seeking organisational overhaul and elections at all levels, triggering a tussle within the party.

On Wednesday, Prasada refrained from attacking the Congress leadership directly but said he realised that it was no longer possible for him to serve people and protect their interests while remaining in his former party. He said the decision was not about which party he was quitting but which he was joining. The development marks another high-profile exit from the Congress of a leader who later joined the BJP. Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP last year, resulting in the fall of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. Once considered close to Rahul Gandhi, a host of young Congress leaders, including Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora, have spoken out about the state of affairs in their party.

Getting Prasada, a member of the Brahmin community, which forms about 13% of Uttar Pradesh’s population, is good optics for the BJP ahead of assembly elections in the state next year, experts said.

Goyal praised Prasada for continuing to help the people of his constituency despite no longer being their representative in Parliament. Prasada, a two-time Congress MP, lost the 2014 elections to BJP’s Rekha Verma.

Lauding him as a “rooted leader” and politician of stature, Goyal said his joining the BJP will boost the party and also provide him an opportunity to serve people. There was speculation about the possibility of Prasada joining the BJP ahead of the 2019 elections but he had then dismissed it saying he would not address “hypothetical questions”.

Prasada has said in recent years that his community was facing persecution and being largely ignored by the Yogi Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh. He also started a Brahma Chetna Samvaad to reach out to the community and offer a platform to give a voice to the community’s aspirations.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Adityanath said: “ We welcome Jitin Prasad, who has left Congress to join the BJP. His inclusion in the party will definitely strengthen BJP in Uttar Pradesh.” Last year, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who was among the signatories to a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi seeking organisational changes, alleged Prasada was being targeted by partymen in Uttar Pradesh and called it unfortunate. Prasada did not find a place in the Congress’s committees formed for the 2022 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. A two-term Lok Sabha MP, he lost elections in 2014 and 2019, and was the Congress leader in charge of West Bengal before joining the BJP.

“Jitin Prasad Ji, do you feel comfortable standing with those people who have suppressed every democratic institution in the last 7 years?” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said.

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