For The BJP, The Value Of Jitin Prasada's Entry Is More In What It Prevents Than What It Causes
With Prasada's entry, the most concerted on ground programme to wean away Brahmins from its support base has now been laid to rest.
Former Congress leader Jitin Prasada's entry into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has created quite a buzz in political circles. One of the young and promising faces in Congress, Jitin's exit, a year after Jyotiraditya Scindia, leaves a huge void for the party which is facing a stream of desertions. It was widely reported that Prasada was ready to leave Congress in 2019 itself before the Lok Sabha elections but Scindia and Priyanka Gandhi persuaded him not to leave the party then.
The Congress, which made Prasada a minister in the Union cabinet from 2008 to 2014 is now claiming that his exit wouldn't make much difference as he was not able to win his own seat of Dhaurahra in the last Lok Sabha elections. The party's "care a damn" attitude notwithstanding, Prasada's significance lies in the importance which caste plays in Uttar Pradesh's politics.
Prasada comes from the Brahmin community which is 10 per cent of the state's population and the second most numerous caste after Jatavs who lead the table with 13 per cent. Although the rise in Hindutva vote bank has already put the majority of the community on saffron side, a large number still reminisce the days when Brahmins under Congress used to call the shots in state's politics.
With the legacy of his father Jitendra Prasada, who was considered a stalwart alongside leaders like Kamalpati Tripathi, Narayan Dutt Tiwari and Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, Jitin has not only inherited a fair amount of goodwill amongst Brahmins, he was also working to earn their trust through his Brahmin Chetana Parishad (BCP).
His Brahmin Chetana Yatras were undertaken under Priyanka Gandhi's auspices to portray the Yogi Adityanath administration as anti-Brahmin. Although the accusations might have been without basis, the random, isolated crimes whose victims Jitin set out to meet were good enough an excuse to appeal to the casteist sentiments of the section within the community so inclined.
Working for the last two years, Jitin's BCP was the second-most ambitious project to consolidate Brahmins after BSP's Satish Chand Mishra's Brahmin pride rallies in 2006. It is reported that Jitin had BCP units in all 75 districts of the state.
Jitin has also been vocal about Congress party's Muslim appeasement politics. Sensing the public mood, he had opposed the candidature of Kaiser Jahan from Sitapur and Zafar Ali Naqvi's from Kheri in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. His own constituency Dhaurara is saddled between these two constituencies.
He was also planning to visit the family of Hindu Samaj Party leader Kamlesh Tiwari, who was murdered by Muslim fundamentalists. The visit had to be cancelled after instructions from the ‘High Command’.
Prasada’s desertion of Congress also affects the already crumbling party in central UP, the only region in the state where it had some semblance of an organisation and cadre. With Amethi, Rae Bareilly falling in the region and a couple of politicians like Pramod Tiwari and Akhilesh Kumar Singh holding the fort, Prasada’s loss delivers a massive blow to the party.
While Sanjay Singh, a close aide of the Gandhis has already left Congress in 2019, five time MLA Akhilesh Kumar Singh's daughter Aditi Singh too has never hidden her rebellious streak against the central leadership. Terming Congress as a family-owned party, she has again cocked a snook at the central leadership by asking it to introspect.
Although it remains to be seen as to how much Prasada’s entry can help BJP, it has surely dealt a blow to Congress party's fledgling plans of staging a comeback in the state.
As for the BJP, it has given them a major reprieve as the most concerted on ground programme to wean away Brahmins from its support base has now been laid to rest.
In case the further weakened Congress loses some more of its 6.25 per cent vote share that it registered in 2017 assembly elections, the demographics of this lot are such that most of the gain will accrue to the BJP.
Prasada’s entry will add to the UP BJP’s existing battery of relatively young Brahmin leaders like Shrikant Sharma, Harish Dwivedi, Sudhanshu Trivedi, Brajesh Pathak and Subrat Pathak. It can help the party offset at least some loss should the party experience some anti-incumbency.
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