Team Priyanka's Stamp, Father's Bitter History & Internal Rebellion: Why the Road Ahead is Tough for Jitin Prasada

File photo of Congress leader Jitin Prasada

File photo of Congress leader Jitin Prasada

As Jitin Prasada witnesses voices of protest and criticism within the party and right under his nose in the area of his parliamentary constituency, the question is why he chose to sign the Group-23 letter.


Pranshu Mishra

In March 2019, a month before the Lok Sabha polls, Congress general secretary in charge for Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi, discussed the possibility of fielding a popular Brahmin face as a party candidate against BJP stalwart Rajnath Singh in Lucknow. Her man of choice for this strategically important political gamble was Jitin Prasada.

A man of sophistication, urban charm, and with two terms in union council of ministers, Prasada’s nomination was deliberated upon with all seriousness; one that even in its defeat could have sent a strong message to the Brahmin voters across the state.

It is said that Prasada was reluctant to pick up the gauntlet. Sources say the leader felt more comfortable contesting from his traditional seat Dhaurara and didn’t see any sound political rationale in shifting to Lucknow.

His adversaries in the party claimed he didn’t want to challenge BJP stalwart Rajnath Singh.

Eventually, Prasada went on to contest from Dhaurara seat and suffered a second consecutive defeat. He polled third on the seat he had represented in 2009. His party too touched the second lowest-ever in electoral history of Uttar Pradesh; party veteran Sonia Gandhi being the only candidate to win from Rai Bareilly. This was the second worst performance registered by the grand old party, the worst being in the post-Emergency elections of 1977 when Congress had lost on all 85 seats of undivided Uttar Pradesh.

In the days that followed, Priyanka Gandhi, now in-charge of UP, selected her own team to steer the party out of political exile of three decades and more.

A senior party functionary, considered a top member of Team Priyanka, said: “In Uttar Pradesh, party organisation and leadership is undergoing a revolutionary change. But it doesn’t mean that old and established faces are being ignored. Jitin Prasada or for that matter any other stalwart needs to understand that politics can’t be a static affair, leadership and responsibilities change with time.”

Now, as Prasada witnesses voices of protest and criticism within the party and right under his nose in the area of his parliamentary constituency, the question is why he chose to sign the Group-23 letter.

While the leadership changes in the UP Congress, under new president Ajay Kumar Lallu, and strong intervention at the strategy level by Team Priyanka led by former JNU student union president Sandeep Singh has disturbed equations of many old hands within the state Congress, none except Jitin Prasada and Raj Babbar chose to sign on the letter addressed to the Congress president seeking organisational changes.

Prasada’s move therefore speaks a lot. When contacted by News18, he refused to comment on the subject, calling it “internal mattes of my party”.

A senior leader close to Prasada said “After Sonia Gandhi made it clear that the letter doesn’t mean any ill intentions and it’s part of our internal democracy, protests and criticism of top leaders is unfortunate.”

Jitin Prasada might choose not to respond now, but some in the CWC reportedly did not refrain from aiming their barbs at the young Congress leaders. In the CWC meet, Prasada was left rather defensive when fellow member Ambika Soni brought up the bitter history of his father, the late Jitendra Prasada, contesting and losing against Sonia Gandhi in the party president elections in the year 2000.

Soni referred to a series of events to underscore internal democracy in the Congress when she made a reference to how Sonia Gandhi accommodated both Jitendra Prasada and his son after winning the elections for the Congress president.

The fact that the entire UP Congress passed a resolution endorsing Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, a day before the CWC meeting, has left Jitin Prasada more isolated in the party’s state politics, which is now entirely being redefined by Priyanka Gandhi.

No doubt, of late he has been trying hard to re-model himself as a Brahmin face in the state. But recent events in the Congress have changed the internal dynamics within the party.

Amidst new hostilities and diminishing trust level, the future looks tense and uncertain.

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