Jitin Prasada’s switch over to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not only left the Congress red-faced but has also adversely impacted the party’s credibility. This is seen as a huge blow to the Congress’ image especially in the wake of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. Though, there is not going to be any major loss of political space or votes by this unprecedented move of the high-profile young leader, the loss of face is something that is going to hurt the Congress in a big way.
Jitin Prasada has changed sides at a time when the Congress is still recovering from a series of defections to the BJP by a number of prominent party members like Hemanta Biswa Sarma in 2015 and Jyotiraditya Scindia in March 2020, to name a few from an extensive list.
BJP seems to be aggressively attacking the core team of Gandhi-Nehru family which is losing gravitation and is finding it hard to retain long-term friends. Scindia and Jiten Prasada have already bid adieu to the Congress with RPN Singh, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora waiting in the wings.
Not to mention the frustration of some other senior party leaders like Captain Amarinder Singh and Bhupinder Singh Hooda that is hard to ignore. In times to come, with no prominent public faces remaining in their fold, Congress could be left high and dry with only its social media crazy leaders tweeting away to glory.
Twitter does not get votes. Leaders do.
Congress must realise that social media is important but in the long run, it can not work as panacea that will infuse life in the sagging image of the party overnight. Congress seems to have missed the bus when the party could have geared up and taken the Narendra Modi government head-on during the current Covid pandemic.
With the Uttar Pradesh assembly election round the corner, and the BJP under immense pressure, the Congress is nowhere in sight. The party has been losing out to the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, Trinammol Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, Janata Dal United in Bihar and Nationalist Congress Party/Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
Congress can not claim a solid presence in any of these states. Even in Punjab where it has been unilaterally running the show, rifts between Captain Amarinder and Navjot Singh Sidhu are out in the open. Kerala also voted for the Left Front in early 2021, leaving the Congress out. Even in Karnataka, the party has had to play second fiddle in the last assembly election in 2018.
It is evident that the young brigade of Congress leaders no longer sees a bright future in the party as more and more opt to join BJP. They may not be looking forward to big positions in BJP as that rarely happens to defectors but they can at least expect some stability in their careers.
UP elections are expected to set the tone for the 2024 Lok Sabha election. BJP’s main challenge in Uttar Pradesh will be from the SP. Not that Congress would have done wonders there with Jitin Prasada around, but his departure is being seen as a big disgrace for the Congress.
The truth is Rahul, Priyanka and Sonia Gandhi are not even a shadow of Indira Gandhi who had the fortitude to bounce back despite losing stalwarts like Babu Jagjivan Ram, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and Nandini Satpathy in 1977. Even Rajiv Gandhi could not stay unfeathered like his illustrious mother in the event of VP Singh’s dissent. Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul are nowhere the statures of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Sachin, Milind, Jitin and Jyotiraditya are no tall leaders but their defection certainly puts a question mark on the integrity of the Gandhi family as it stands isolated in the Indian political melee.
Rahul Gandhi’s core team seems to be disintegrating at its seams which is certainly not a politically healthy sign. Congress needs to do serious reflection and act before it’s too late.
(Amit Goel is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead. The views expressed in the article are those of the author.)