A year ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress suffered a big setback on Wednesday (June 9) when former Union minister Jitin Prasada, once close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, joined the BJP.
The 47-year-old is the second former Rahul aide to defect to the BJP since Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure in 2020. “He is like my younger brother and I welcome him to BJP. I congratulate him,” Jyotiraditya Scindia, a BJP Rajya Sabha member, told media.
He joined the saffron party in the presence of BJP chief JP Nadda after meeting Home Minister Amit Shah and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
“I would like to thank the Prime Minister, Home Minister, JP Nadda and other party leaders for giving me this opportunity to work. This is a new chapter of my political career. This decision of mine has come after much deliberation. BJP is the only party that is working for national building,” Prasada said.
He was the Congress’ top Brahmin face in UP, and his exit comes at a time the Congress is trying to resolve a feud in Punjab, another state voting in 2022.
“I started feeling that I was in a party surrounded by politics. I started feeling that I was not able to contribute or work for the people,” said Prasada.
Home Minister Amit Shah welcomed Prasada with a tweet: “Welcome to Bharatiya Janata Party. I am confident that his joining the party will further strengthen the resolve of BJP for public service in Uttar Pradesh.”
Jitin was part of the ‘G-23’ group of Congress leaders who had written to party chief Sonia Gandhi last year, calling for sweeping reforms and collective decision-making in the party.
The former Lok Sabha member from Dhaurahra of district Lakhimpur Kheri was one of Congress’s top leaders in Uttar Pradesh. His defection is a big loss for the party ahead of next year’s assembly election. Reports suggested that he might be asked to contest the assembly polls in 2022 and then play a role in the 2024 general election.
Jitin’s ties to the Congress go back decades. His father was party veteran Jitendra Prasada, who had once challenged Sonia’s leadership of the Congress in 1999 and had contested against her for the post of party president. He died in 2001.
His Congress career began the same year and he went on to become a minister twice in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government.
Prasada’s entry is meant to help the BJP reset the perception about the Yogi Adityanath government, perceived by a section of UP’s Brahmins as being pro-Thakur (the Chief Minister’s caste).
Brahmins make up about 13 per cent of UP’s voters and are an influential vote block that has steadily tilted towards the BJP over the years. In July last year, Prasada launched the Brahmin Chetna Parishad, but it had little impact.
But some in the Congress question his relevance. He lost three elections on the trot – the 2014 and 2019 national elections and the UP assembly polls in 2017.