Ex-Congress leader Jitin Prasada – the BJP’s newest recruit – told NDTV Thursday his decision to switch sides had nothing to do with Rahul Gandhi or the leadership crisis plaguing his former party.
Mr Prasada told NDTV he made no deal with Home Minister Amit Shah or party chief JP Nadda prior to his joining the BJP. He said he quit the Congress – his party of two decades – because “it was getting difficult (to work)”, and joined the BJP because he could “serve the people”.
“I didn’t do any deal with Nadda or Shahji… I will do whatever the party gives me,” he told NDTV.
“It is not about Rahul or any leader… I never said the Congress did nothing. I got an opportunity to serve as a cabinet minister. I served for three generations… but slowly it was getting difficult. I thought the people are with Narendra Modi (and) I can serve them by moving,” he added.
The 47-year-old former Union Minister was once close to Rahul Gandhi before frustrations with the party’s poor electoral results spilled over into a letter that he and 22 others wrote to Sonia Gandhi last year, calling for collective decision-making and “full-time, visible leadership”.
That letter split the Congress down the middle, with Gandhi loyalists vs the ‘G-23’, or group of 23 rebel leaders. The looming civil war appeared to be staved off after the party promised a measure of change, including internal elections scheduled for this month that have since been postponed
“I thought the BJP is an institutionally-organised party. The rest of the parties revolve around a particular person,” he said, in thinly veiled reference to those concerns.
The 47-year-old leader, who was the Congress’s top Brahmin face in Uttar Pradesh, also gave an indication of where he might be deployed by his new party, saying: “I will be able to do more work by staying with Yogiji (UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath).”
Just five months ago, Mr Prasada had attacked the BJP government in UP for reportedly manhandling Rahul Gandhi during a march over the Hathras rape case.
Now, he is a potentially critical acquisition for the BJP, which has faced severe internal criticism of its government’s handling of the Covid pandemic in that state.
Mr Prasada’s entry is meant to help the BJP reset the optics of the Yogi Adityanath government, perceived by a section of UP’s Brahmins as being pro-Thakur (the Chief Minister’s caste).