Amid rumours that he will be joining the BJP, Congress leader and party candidate from Uttar Pradesh’s Dhaurahra constituency, Jitin Prasad, clarified on Friday evening that the question of his switching over to the saffron party is “hypothetical”.
Prasad, a key Brahmin face of the party in central Uttar Pradesh, was named as the party’s candidate from Dhaurahra on March 7, when the party announced its first list of 15 Lok Sabha candidates. He had represented the Dhaurahra seat in 2004 and 2009 before losing it in 2014.
The speculation that Prasad is headed to the BJP began on Friday morning with some reports even suggesting that the 45-year-old leader will join the party by evening. What added some heft to the rumour was that the BJP, which had declared its first list of 184 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls on Thursday night, had not announced its nominee from the Dhaurahra seat though names for 28 other seats, including those for the Sitapur and Kheri constituencies that are adjoining Prasad’s home turf, in the state had been declared.
As reports of his decision to quit the Congress began gaining ground, Prasad remained incommunicado – his phone was switched off during the first half of the day. Later in the day, when asked by reporters to respond to the buzz, he said: “There should be some basis for such a question. Why should I answer a hypothetical question?”
Congress sources confirmed that Prasad, who had served a short stint as a Union minister during the UPA-II era, was unhappy over being sidelined by the party leadership lately but expressed confidence over him staying with the party despite the differences. At the Congress party’s press conference, media cell chief Randeep Surjewala was asked whether Prasad was indeed planning to join the BJP.
Sources said that the BJP was indeed involved in back-channel talks with Prasad hoping to convince him to switch sides. The Congress leader has been unhappy with his party’s choice of candidates from the Kheri and Sitapur Lok Sabha constituencies – both adjoining Dhaurahra. The Congress has declared the candidature of senior leader Zafar Ali Naqvi from Kheri while Kaisar Jahan is the party’s candidate from Sitapur. It is learnt that Prasad wanted the party to field a non-Muslim from the Sitapur seat but the party refused to heed his advice.
Prasad, son of Congress stalwart Jitendra Prasad, who had famously, albeit unsuccessfully, challenged Sonia Gandhi in the elections for the post of the Congress president in 2000, has also been upset over not being given any major role in the Congress organization. He is presently a special invitee to the party’s apex decision making body – the Congress Working Committee – but unlike his contemporary, Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia who was recently given the crucial charge of party general secretary for western UP, Prasad has no significant responsibility.
While Prasad has made it clear that he has no plans to join the BJP, for now, Congress sources say that the party is likely to grant him a bigger role in the organization soon and a greater say in the choice of candidates in Uttar Pradesh to pacify him. Two senior Congress leaders are also in touch with Prasad in a bid to resolve any outstanding issues he may have with the party.
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