In a setback for the Congress ahead of the 2022 state assembly polls, former Union minister and party leader Jitin Prasada, who had been disillusioned with the grand old party, switched over to the BJP on Wednesday.
Prasada, who was also part of the G-23 group in Congress that had written a letter registering its dissent with the party leadership, 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.
“I would like to thank the prime minister, home minister, JP Nadda and other party leaders to give me this opportunity to work. This is new chapter of my political career. This decision of mine has come after much deliberation. BJP is the only party that is working for national building,” he said.
Sources in the BJP told News18 that the former Congress leader may be asked to contest assembly polls in 2022 and then may play a role in Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Considered close to Rahul Gandhi, Prasada in 2019 rubbished rumours of being upset with the Congress leadership and switching over to BJP. He is the second leader close to Gandhi after Jyotiraditya Scindia to switch over to the BJP.
Prasada was targeted internally after being part of the group which wrote a letter questioning the leadership of Gandhis in the Congress party. The party’s unit in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri had even passed a resolution demanding his expulsion. Sources also reveal that Prasada was not happy with being denied the post of UPCC chief, which was given to Ajay Kumar Lallu.
Prasada, who had represented the Dhaurahra Lok Sabha seat in Lakhimpur Kheri in 2019, has been maintaining his distance from the party’s activities for some time now. However, he has been working under the umbrella of Brahman Chetna Parishad, a front formed by him to raise the issues faced by the Brahmin community in the state. As per sources, Prasada may be asked to contest the upcoming UP assembly elections on a BJP ticket.
Prasada was also in the news during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when Priyanka Gandhi wanted to field a Brahmin face from state capital Lucknow against BJP’s Rajnath Singh. However, sources suggest that then Prasad was hesitant in contesting against Singh as he knew it would be difficult to defeat the BJP stalwart on his home turf. Ultimately, Prasada contested from Dhaurahra seat and faced a second consecutive loss in 2019.
Prasada became secretary in the Indian Youth Congress in 2001 for the first time. In 2004, he tried his luck in the 14th Lok Sabha elections from his home seat Shahjahanpur and won. He was appointed Union minister of state, steel, in 2008.
In 2009, Prasada contested the 15th Lok Sabha elections from Dhaurahara and won by 184,509 votes. He has been the Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways from 2009 to January 2011, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas from January 2011 to October 2012 and Ministry of Human Resource Development from October 2012 to May 2014.