NEW DELHI: Former Union minister Jitin Prasada, another key member of Team Rahul Gandhi during UPA II, joining the BJP, shows that the Congress has failed to put its house in order forcing its disenchanted younger leadership to jump ship for greener pastures.
Prasada, a Brahmin from UP and signatory to letter by G23 party leaders, switched over to the BJP just ahead of UP assembly elections. Prasada's move may not impact the grand old party electoral fortunes in the state which is in shambles. It may help the BJP sending a signal to the Brahmin community that is feeling sidelined under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath, a Rajput. The party called Prasada's move unfortunate and said that he had a future here but it was his decision to join the BJP.
The 47-year-old Prasada joins his former colleague and BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. Rahul Gandhi’s other two close associates -- Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora -- are also unhappy with the affairs in the party. The feud between Pilot and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot played out publicly last year when the former rebelled against him and reportedly was in touch with the BJP.
“I believe in Congress as a party that can and must reclaim its position as India’s big tent party. We still have a strong bench that if empowered and optimally utilised, can deliver. I only wish that several of my friends, peers and valued colleagues hadn’t left us,” tweeted Deora.
Some of these young leaders, who did not have much ground connection, were catapulted as Union ministers in UPA II in 2009 but some of them felt left out and dejected following the party's poor performance in several assembly and general elections. A common thread was that all of them came from political families and enjoyed direct access to the Gandhi family.
Several leaders, especially from the G23, are unhappy with the party leadership for its failure to address their concerns with decisions on organisational elections and reforms in the party lingering on. The party is yet to elect a new chief with Sonia Gandhi taking over as interim chief since 2019. More party leaders may quit the party in coming months, say sources.
Prasada does not have much clout in UP and had lost three elections -- two Lok Sabha (2014 and 2019) and assembly election (2017) -- from UP. Keeping in mind 2022 assembly elections in the state, Prasada floated Brahmin Chetna Parishad last year and projected himself as a Brahmin face of the Congress in the state. UP has 12 per cent Brahmin population which is crucial for any party.
After he joined the Group of 23 letter writers flagging issues related to organisational elections in the party, he was appointed as the AICC incharge for West Bengal, where party could not even win a single seat in the recently-held elections. He reportedly felt that the appointment was to keep him out of the
state and he was not included in any of the committees constituted by the party’s UP incharge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Prasada was all set to join the BJP when last minute efforts by Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia, now in BJP, convinced him against it. He was unhappy over the party projecting two Muslim candidates from adjoining constituencies -- Lakhimpur Kheri and Sitapur -- of
Dhaurahra which he won in 2009 and lost in 2014.
Haryana Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi said that losing Scindia and Prasada is a huge blow to the party. “As we lose leaders who gave and still had much to give to the Party. Agreed, they shouldn’t have abandoned INC especially during troubled waters. But Congress needs to identify and empower mass leaders to win back states,” he tweeted.