MP: BJP leader Balendu Shukla joins Congress

Bhopal, Jun 5 (PTI) Senior BJP leader and former state minister Balendu Shukla on Friday returned to the Congress as the opposition party in Madhya Pradesh seeks to strengthen itself in the Gwalior region after Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the saffron party.

Shukla was a close aide of late Madhavrao Scindia but was sidelined by the erstwhile Gwalior royal family after the latter died, Congress sources said.

Shukla, who was cabinet minister in the state between 1993-98 and also had a stint with BSP, joined the Congress in the presence of state unit chief Kamal Nath.

'The BJP has given me honour, but now there is no utility in that party for me. My Congress friends were in touch and insisted I come back to the Congress,' said Shukla, for whom the entry of Scindia in the BJP had made things even more difficult.

The 230-member state Assembly has 24 seats vacant, due to resignations and deaths, and bypolls have to be held.

Of the 24, 16 seats fall in the Gwalior-Chambal region and Shukla's entry is to ensure the Congress gives the BJP a tough fight whenever bypolls are held, party sources said.

However, BJP leader Pankaj Chaturvedi, considered to be close to Jyotiraditya Scindia, said Shukla's entry into the Congress will have no impact.

'The Congress is banking on those who were sitting idle at home. It reflects the Congress' mental bankruptcy,' Chaturvedi said. PTI MAS BNM BNM