Insider-out: Congress saves itself from another defection in form of Jitin Prasada

In times of pre-election camp switches, the Congress had a close shave with Jitin Prasada.

Published: 24th March 2019 03:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th March 2019 10:21 AM   |  A+A-

Jitin Prasada (File | PTI)

Express News Service

Holes in the bucket

In times of pre-election camp switches, the Congress had a close shave with Jitin Prasada. A Rahul Gandhi campwallah, Jitin’s exit to BJP would have been a big embarrassment. A junior minister in the UPA, Jitin is from an old and illustrious Congress family, with links to the Kapurthala royal family on one side and the Tagores on the other.

Jitin’s father Jitendra Prasada had famously run against Sonia Gandhi for the Congress president’s post. Belying Jitin’s making light of it as ‘hypothetical’ talk, senior Congress leaders had to literally camp at his house to stop him from walking over to the BJP office. Even Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the two UP general secretaries,  rushed in to assuage his ‘hurt’ feelings.

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To begin with, Jitin was smarting over his sidelining in the UP Congress (Scindia having been paradropped from MP), that too after having been sounded out for the UPCC chief’s post. And now, the party has decided against his choice of candidates from two seats — Lakhimpur Kheri and Sitapur — that are around his home base Dhaurahra, from where he has been fielded. His protests only elicited the offer of a gloomy alternative: a fight against Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, in short, a near-certain defeat.

The offer from Rahul Gandhi is, if Jitin agrees to Lucknow and loses, a Rajya Sabha seat is guaranteed. Or else, he can contest from Sitapur. The final decision has been left to Jitin.

Another RS toss-up

Now that Amit Shah is contesting from Gandhinagar, replacing L.K. Advani, speculation is rife over who gets the Rajya Sabha seat Shah holds.  No one is doubting that Shah will win the LS seat: it’s a BJP stronghold. Advani has been an MP from there since 1998. Shah used to be Advani’s polling agent, and was instrumental in his victories.

While one view is that Advani would be shifting to the Upper House in Shah’s place, the other is that his daughter Pratibha Advani would get the seat. Though Modi-Shah is against promoting dynasty, the senior Sangh functionary who mediated between them and Advani, suggested the second course. However, that’s some way off.

Second seat for Rahul

While Narendra Modi will not be contesting from Gujarat, like he did in 2014 along with Varanasi, Rahul Gandhi is likely to contest from a second seat in southern India. There’s a strong buzz that it could be Wayanad -- a safe seat -- on the northern tip of Kerala. Apparently, it would have an impact on Congress prospects in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The only catch is, in Wayanad Rahul Gandhi would be taking on the CPI, not the BJP. It seems the Communist Party is all set to dissuade him, through back channels, so as to not rob them of a chance. That apart, Karnataka Congress wants him to contest from one of the Bangalore city seats and DMK chief M.K. Stalin has offered a pick from four seats in Tamil Nadu. One thing is sure,  Rahul will not be banking entirely on Amethi.

Maharashtra twist

The Congress camp in Maharashtra is so rife with dissent that stories of internal sabotage abound. So much so that MPCC chief Ashok Chavan has offered to put in his papers. Known as a Rahul Gandhi acolyte, Chavan is being blamed for muffing up the candidate selection in several constituencies where the GOP had a clear edge.

He’s not the only one though. Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, the Congress CLP leader, whose son Suraj has joined the BJP to contest from Ahmednagar, is also being accused of having been hand-in-glove with CM Devendra Fadnavis. The story goes that Fadnavis helped Vikhe-Patil capture the Leader of Opposition post in Maharashtra assembly and he’s returned him the favour.

Santwana Bhattacharya
The author is Political Editor, TNIE. Email: santwana@newindianexpress.com

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