New Delhi: Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh Jitin Prasada on Wednesday (June 9) joined BJP in the presence of Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Rajya Sabha member Anil Baluni at party headquarters. The move came as a big jolt to the Congress party at least eight months ahead of the assembly elections in 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh. Sources in the BJP said that he may be asked to contest the upcoming state assembly polls in 2022 and that he might play a role in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress had earlier in 2019 survived a scare of Jitin Prasada switching sides to BJP after Jyotiraditya Scindia succeeded in stopping him from doing so. However, Scindia later joined BJP in March 2020.
Jitin Prasada’s father Jitendra Prasada was a prominent ‘Brahmin’ face in Uttar Prasad, who challenged Sonia Gandhi’s leadership in 1999 and contested against her for the post of party chief. He died in 2002.
Prasada, once close to Rahul Gandhi, was part of Group-23 (G-23) signatories who had written to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi demanding sweeping reforms in the party. Despite being a dissenter, he was tasked with the Congress campaign in West Bengal, which turned out to be a disappointment. Taking a stand against the party, he opposed Congress’s alliance with the Indian Secular Front (ISF) in West Bengal.
Congress suffered a huge loss with Jitin Prasada switching sides to BJP, since the latter was a popular Brahmin face in the state. Speculation was rife even during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections about Jitin Prasada joining the BJP, but it is believed that the Congress leadership had then managed to persuade him against quitting the party. It is believed that Prasada had been reportedly disillusioned with the grand old party since 2019, the same year when he suffered a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha election and forfeited his deposit from Dhaurahra parliamentary seat. According to reports, then Congress general secretary-in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was in favour of Prasada contesting against Rajnath Singh from Lucknow. However, the offer did not please Prasada at all. In fact, he was also upset about the choice of Congress party nominees from neighbouring Sitapur and Lakhimpur Kheri seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Reports say he was snubbed by Congress top brass when he questioned the presence of two Muslims in neighbouring constituencies.
Speculations are there that BJP understands it that having Jitin Prasad ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election will help the party pacify Brahmins in the state. A party insider said that Prasada could be projected as the Brahmin face of the party which is completely missing in Uttar Pradesh. Rumours are also that the BJP had been identifying strong faces from opposition parties who have lately been unsatisfied in their party.
The BJP high-command reportedly wants to bring such faces into the party to gain majority numbers in the upcoming Assembly election of Uttar Pradesh. But at the same time, BJP also needs to analyse that while politicians and leaders like Jitin Prasada are no doubt strong faces, but welcoming them into the party may not ensure the requisite numbers during the election.