Jitin Prasada has won just one big election – Uttar Pradesh’s Dhaurahra Lok Sabha seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. His subsequent track record at the hustings is nothing to crow about as he lost in the 2014 as well as 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well as the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections – three straight losses.
But for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with less than nine months to go before it seeks the votes again in Uttar Pradesh and facing growing turbulence due to concerns over Yogi Adityanath government’s poor track record, Prasada could be a vote catcher, if not across the board but certainly among the politically strong Brahmin community in Uttar Pradesh. In the last two years, there have been clear tell-tale signs that the Brahmins are getting restive and looking for options other than the BJP in the country’s biggest state.
Who is Jitin Prasada?
Known more for being Jitendra Prasada’s son than his own political achievements, Jitin Prasada was at one point of time considered to be a star on the horizon for the country’s grand old party. After all, the elder Prasada was a prominent power centre in the Congress having adorned the post of vice president of the party and as the political advisor to two prime ministers – Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao.
In 2000, Jitendra Prasada contested against Sonia Gandhi for the post of Congress president but lost.
His son, Jitin Prasada took the Youth Congress route into politics. Three years after he was appointed the Indian Youth Congress general secretary in 2001, Jitin contested the 2004 Lok Sabha election from his fathers constituency Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh and won.
Towards the end of the UPA1 regime, Jitin was inducted as the Minister of State in the Manmohan Singh government. He retained his seat in the 2009 polls.
He was also made the All India Congress Committee general secretary for West Bengal recently. In the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election, the Congress performed miserably and scored a zero in the state. Jitin Prasada was blamed for the drubbing.
Why is Jitin Prasada a catch for the BJP?
Though not in the same league as Congress leader turned BJP Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia or Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot, one thing that Jitin Prasada has in common with both Scindia and Pilot is lineage. After all, all three come from old Congress families and their fathers were diehard Congressmen and prominent leaders.
Another common factor is that all three were considered a part of the Rahul Gandhi coterie in Congress. But with his departure, yet another question mark has arisen about the leadership quality of the Gandhi family scion.
What is with one more Gen-Next leader of the Congress jumping the fence in search of greener pastures ? Jitin Prasada’s action once again reinforces the growing belief that his own people don’t have much confidence in the leadership abilities of Rahul Gandhi.
Jitin was among those who had questioned the killing of Kanpur’s Brahmin gangster Vikas Dubey, who was gunned down by the UP police in a controversial encounter near Kanpur in July 2021.
“Brahmins have been facing persecution in this regime… Many members of the community have been killed since the BJP came to power in the state… In many cases the perpetrators have not been apprehended,” he had alleged after the encounter.
In recent times, he was also taking on the BJP government through his little-known outfit christened the Brahmin Chetna Parishad. It would be interesting to see how he explains his U-turn in joining the same BJP which was the target of his attack till a few months ago.
But, the BJP is likely to use his induction into the saffron party to buttress its claim over the Brahmin vote bank.
Since the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the marginalisation of Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalraj Mishra, the BJP in Uttar Pradesh does not have a big Brahmin face, one who has recognition across the state. Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma, also a Brahmin, has a long way to go before he can assure the party of the support of Brahmins.
BJP would be hoping that Jitin Prasada will fill that void. The party is also aware that unless it manages to contain the restive Brahmins, retaining power in the 2022 Assembly elections will be a big ask.
However, the fact that the BJP sent Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and not a party bigwig to welcome Jitin into the party fold is also a clear indication of how much importance he will be accorded in his new party.
It seems clear that the latest entrant from the Congress to the BJP will have to bide his time, and opposition, before he gets in a foothold in the party.
(Maneesh Chhibber is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead News. The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author.)