In a jolt to the Congress, retired bureaucrat Bhagirath Prasad on Sunday joined the BJP, less than 24 hours after he was named the Congress candidate from the Bhind Parliamentary seat.
Prasad, a 1975-batch IAS officer who resigned in 2007 to contest the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Bhind on a Congress ticket, is considered very close to party general secretary Digvijay Singh. The 66-year-old’s name was pushed for a 2014 ticket by Digvijay, despite the fact that he lost the 2009 elections. The party cleared his name on Saturday night.
It’s learnt that Prasad had been in touch with senior BJP leaders, including Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, for the last three months.
Three days ago, Prasad met Narrotam Mishra, a minister in the Chouhan cabinet, and it was during this time that the deal for his joining the BJP was finalised. He is now likely to get the BJP ticket for Bhind. One of the conditions put forward by Chouhan and his associates was that the BJP would accommodate Prasad only after the Congress named him as its candidate. This was done apparenlty to embarrass the Congress and Leader of the Opposition Satyadev Katare. In the last one year, Chouhan has managed to attract two senior Congress leaders, Uday Pratap Singh and Rakesh Chowdhary, to the BJP fold.
State Congress president Arun Yadav and Katare have termed Prasad a “backstabber”. “Just three days ago, when I was leaving for Delhi to attend the central election committee meeting, Prasad spoke to me and requested me to put my best efforts to get him a Congress ticket. I told him I will make sure that he is made the party nominee. But look at him now. He cheated us,” Katare said.
After meeting Chouhan at his house, Prasad was awarded BJP membership by state BJP president Narendra Singh Tomar. Prasad said he was forced to leave the Congress as he was being “wasted” in the party.
Prasad is married to Padma Shri-winning author Mehrunnisa Parvez.