Congress leader Jitin Prasada joins BJP



New Delhi

Congress leader Jitin Prasada joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday, in a boost to the saffron party as it works to strengthen its social coalition ahead of assembly elections in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh early next year.

Joining the BJP here in the presence of Union minister Piyush Goyal and its chief spokesperson Anil Baluni, Prasada told reporters that “if there was any political party in the country today that worked in an institutional way…If there was truly any national party in the country, then it was the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

Other parties were either about personalities or confined to some particular regions, he said, echoing the BJP’s criticism of its rivals like the Congress and several regional parties.

Prasada was part of the group of 23 leaders, who had written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last October seeking organisational overhaul and elections at all levels, triggering a storm in the party.

The 47-year-old former Union minister, who comes from a well-known Brahmin family of Uttar Pradesh, refrained from attacking the Congress leadership but said he had realised that it was no longer possible for him to serve people and protect their interests while remaining in his former party.

Noting that his family had been associated with the Congress for three generations, he said he had reflected long before severing the ties, and asserted that it was not about which party he was quitting but which he was joining.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the country strongly and is the most capable person to confront the challenges facing the nation, he said, while also lauding other BJP leaders like Home Minister Amit Shah and its president J P Nadda. A two-term Lok Sabha MP, he was the Congress leader in-charge of West Bengal before joining the BJP.

Son of Jitendra Prasada, a key Congress leader before his fortunes plunged following his decision to contest against Sonia Gandhi for the post of party president in 2000, his joining the BJP may help him politically at a time when the saffron party is working overtime to boost its ranks in preparation for the assembly polls.

His father had served at important political positions during the prime ministership of Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao, and had died months after losing to Sonia Gandhi by a massive margin.

With the Congress in dire straits in Uttar Pradesh and he himself losing Lok Sabha polls twice in a row besides an assembly election in between, Jitin Prasada saw little future for himself in the party and is likely to be accommodated in the state BJP or Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led government. It will also help the BJP keep Brahmins, a section of whom are said to be unhappy with the party in Uttar Pradesh, in good humour in the politically most important state of India, party sources said.