Jitin Prasada, former Union minister and Congress leader, joins BJP

Jitin Prasada joins the BJP in the presence of Union minister Piyush Goyal in New Delhi on Wednesday

Jitin Prasada, former Union minister and a third-generation Congress leader once considered a member of Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle, joined the BJP on Wednesday, with the ruling party shedding its self-proclaimed distaste for dynastic politics as it had done in the case of Jyotiraditya Scindia.

While Jitin’s switch was seen as a loss for the Congress, it also bared the desperation of the BJP in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls due early next year.

The BJP spreading the red carpet for Jitin, 47, who lost the 2014 and 2019 elections, was widely seen as an effort to reach out to the Brahmin voters in the heartland state who are said to be increasingly feeling marginalised under chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Union home minister Amit Shah welcomed Jitin into the party, saying: “I have full faith that his joining the BJP will give strength to the Uttar Pradesh BJP’s resolution to serve the people.”

Adityanath was similarly effusive. “Jitin Prasada joining the BJP will certainly strengthen the BJP in Uttar Pradesh,” the chief minister tweeted.

Jitin had since last year been leading an effort to woo Brahmins away from the BJP by floating a “Brahmin Chetna Parishad”. This  seems to have caught the BJP leadership’s attention as the traditional Thakur-Brahmin rivalry in Uttar Pradesh has become more palpable under Adityanath, who has been accused of patronising the Thakurs.

At the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Jitin joined the party in the presence of railway minister Piyush Goyal, who said the former MP had spent his life working for the people of Uttar Pradesh.

Jitin said three generations of his family had been associated with the Congress and that he took the decision to embrace the BJP after “lot of deliberation”.

“I felt the party I was in was not able to help the people. What is the relevance of remaining in a party if you can’t protect the interests of your people?” he said, calling the Congress a “person-oriented party”. Jitin claimed he had not been able to work for his people while in the Congress.

Jitin hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and claimed that the BJP was currently the “only national party”. He also had words of praise for home minister Shah, calling him a “karmyogi (worshipper of work)”.

Jitin’s father Jitendra Prasada had been a four-time Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh.

Jitin is the second prominent Congress dynast to have joined the BJP after Jyotiraditya last year. The BJP, which misses no opportunity to attack the Congress for promoting dynastic politics, has welcomed Jitin and Jyotiraditya with open arms and appears to be eyeing more such leaders, including former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.

Both Jitin and Jyotiraditya, along with some others like Milind Deora and Sachin, had been inducted as ministers in the UPA II government and were referred to as “young Turks” who were preparing to take over under the leadership of Rahul.

They also seemed to share Rahul’s sartorial tastes, sporting puffed half jackets.

Like Jyotiraditya, Jitin had found himself powerless after losing the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 and 2019. He had won earlier in 2004 and 2009 and joined the Manmohan Singh government. He had been minister of state for steel, petroleum and natural gas, road transport and human resource development at various times between 2008 and 2014.

Jitin had recently been holding the post of the Congress general secretary in charge of Bengal.

Jitin had been among the “group of 23” leaders who had written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the drift in the party and called for sweeping organisational reforms.

There had been rumours of Jitin joining the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were believed to have intervened to hold him back.

A Doon School alumnus like Rahul, Jitin had in October last year termed the Adityanath government “autocratic” for manhandling Rahul and Priyanka and not allowing them to meet the Hathras gang rape and murder victim’s family. Only last month Jitin had re-tweeted Rahul’s statement slamming the Centre’s vaccine policy.

Of late, however, Jitin had turned silent and refrained from joining Rahul’s attacks on the government. On June 1, Jitin had tweeted to greet his caste men on “Vishwa Brahmin Diwas”. A couple of days ago, he had greeted Adityanath on his birthday.

The BJP hopes that Jitin’s defection will send a positive signal to the Brahmin voters. Brahmins make up roughly half of the 20 per cent upper caste population of Uttar Pradesh and have supported different parties at different times. Jitin could get a key position in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, BJP sources said.

Additional reporting by Piyush Srivastava


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