Can Jitin Prasada help the BJP retain its Brahmin base in UP?
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com finds out.
Jitin Prasada is the latest Congress leader to abandon ship and join the Bharatiya Janata Party and it is an open bet that he won't be the last.
A two-term member of the Lok Sabha, Prasada was the Congress in-charge of West Bengal -- from where the party drew a blank in the recent assembly election -- before joining the BJP.
His father Congress veteran Jitendra Prasada contested against Sonia Gandhi for the post of party president in 2000, and the son hopes that joining the BJP will boost his political fortunes ahead of next year's Uttar Pradesh assembly election.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com lists 10 factors about Jitin Prasada's crossover to the BJP.
- Jitin Prasada was a minister of state in the United Progressive Alliance government and considered one of the Congress's young faces in Uttar Pradesh.
He won the Lok Sabha election from Shahjahanpur in 2004 and from Dhaurara in 2009, but lost the elections in 2014 and 2019.
He was a signatory to the rebel G-23 group in the Congress that wanted to discuss the leadership issue in the party.
- His father Jitendra Prasada died in 2001, months after losing the Congress presidential election to Sonia Gandhi. This did not stop Sonia from inviting Jitin, then just 30, to contest the 2004 election from his father's Shahjahanpur seat, which he won.
- Jitendra Prasada was political advisor to then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao which made him then the virtual number two in the Congress party.
- Jitendra Prasada and Narasimha Rao are often blamed for tying up with Kanshi Ram's Bahujan Samaj Party in 1996 that led to the Congress's downfall in UP.
A veteran political observer told Rediff.com that Jitendra Prasada wanted 200 seats for the Congress and 225 seats for the BSP in the UP assembly election.
A chance meeting between Rao and BSP founder Kanshi Ram led to an agreement where the Congress would contest only 125 seats in the UP election.
The party has never recovered in the state post that tie-up.
- Unlike his father, Jitin Prasada has not shown any qualities of a mass leader. He was unable to win back the Brahmin vote bank for the Congress party in UP.
There is a question mark over his ability to retain this vote bank for the BJP given the Brahmin community's reported anger over the 'Thakur raj' in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht (aka Yogi Adityanath), a Thakur.
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the last known Brahmin titan in the BJP's UP party. The state's last Brahmin chief minister was Narain Dutt Tiwari from the Congress who ruled way back in 1989.
UP is known to have given India Brahmin national leaders like Govind Ballabh Pant, Kamalapati Tripathi and Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna.
Dr Dinesh Sharma is currently the BJP's leading Brahmin face in UP, and he shares the deputy chief ministership with Keshav Prasad Maurya.
- By importing Jitin Prasada into the party, the BJP is probably trying to make a Himanta Biswa Sarma out of him.
Sarma switched from the Congress to the BJP in 2015 and changed the fortune of both parties in the north east.
He is now Assam's chief minister and largely credited for the BJP's recent electoral victory in the state.
- Unlike Himanta Biswa Sarma, Jitin Prasada is considered a political bantamweight. A public school alumnus, articulate and well spoken, but largely living off his late father's political legacy.
- The BJP is reportedly on a sticky wicket in UP with a rebellion brewing against Chief Minister Bisht.
BJP MLAs feel Bisht is over domineering and handled the Covid crisis badly, which may cost the BJP dear in the March 2022 asembly election.
BJP leaders have dismissed talk of a rift between Bisht and the BJP's supreme leader Narendra Damodardas Modi, but it appears to be a summer of discontent for the BJP in UP.
- Jitin's exit from the Congress reflects badly on its erratic leadership, especially Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who has been given responsibility for UP.
One veteran Congress observer told Rediff.com that the "Congress is floating on waves and has not been able to find the shore. Worse, they don't know where the shore is or even who is steering the boat."