In a setback for the Congress before the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls due early next year, former Union minister Jitin Prasada, earlier considered a member of Rahul Gandhi's inner circle, switched over to the BJP on Wednesday.
This move comes on the back of his long-running tiff with party leadership.
Prasada, who was also part of the G-23 group in Congress, joined the saffron party in the presence of BJP chief JP Nadda after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.
A prominent Brahmin face in Uttar Pradesh, Prasada in an exclusive interview with CNN-News18 said that he took the decision after "lot of deliberation". He claimed he had been unable to work for the people while in the Congress.
'Huge disconnect between party and people'
"The decision to quit the Congress was not made overnight, it was being deliberated over the last few years. In my state, there was a huge disconnect between the party and people," he said.
"It was a matter of inner calling, it had nothing to do with any individual. I am thankful for all the posts and positions that I got in the Congress, but this is not about that. It is about working for the people; If I don't have the support then how can I do my work," Prasada said.
He clarified that his switch to the BJP was not because of "power", but "ideology".
"This is not about an individual or someone's style of functioning, it is about the Congress. If this was just about power I would not have waited to lose two elections," said the two-time Lok Sabha MP.
He further said, "What ideology forced the Congress to form a government with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and contest the recent West Bengal Assembly polls in an alliance with the Left?"
"Congressmen are free to air their views, but as far as ideology is concerned there is only one national interest," he added.
He hailed Narendra Modi and said it was the prime minister's popularity that "attracted" him to the saffron party.
"I saw Modi's popularity and we tried to beat that but weren't able to. It's one of things that attracted me to the BJP. We didn't see a turn around even after we raised issues. Congress did not listen," Prasada said.
'Congress has lost connect, become directionless'
He also accused the Congress party of becoming directionless and distant from the members after the electoral losses.
"The decision to quit the party was not just for being unheard. There was not direction being given to make the turn around. Electoral defeats is one of the reason for me to leave. Every one knows who the party head is, but are they using the available talent properly?"
Prasada was part of the group of 23 leaders who had written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in October seeking organisational changes, elections at all levels and and clarity in leadership.
The 47-year-old former Union minister said he 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.
'BJP is the only national party'
On his future plans in the BJP, Prasada said he will work as a worker of the BJP and serve the people. "BJP has not promised anything. I am not a deal maker, I have been a Congress man and just because I switched sides, BJP is not going to offer me a position. Its up to the party to decide how to use me," he said.
He had more words of praise for Modi's party and claimed that the BJP was currently the "only national party".
"Now that I have joined BJP, I am in a better position to help people. Today Narendra Modi is the biggest leader and BJP is the only national party," he said.
"Who's next to leave Congress is not something that I can talk about. I have tried to solve problems for Congress, I have tried to revived Congress," he added.
Before joining the BJP, Prasada had recently been holding the post of the Congress general secretary in-charge of West Bengal.
Prasada was elected to the 14th Lok Sabha from Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur in 2004. He was the minister of state from April 2008-May 2009, according to his page on the Lok Sabha website.
He was re-elected in 2009 from Dhaurara. He lost the seat in 2014, when the BJP government came to power at the Centre, and contested it unsuccessfully again in 2019.
Last year, he launched an initiative to reach out to Brahmins, but that move did not get much importance in the Congress camp.