BJP leader joins Cong. in M.P.

Congress hopes his return will bolster prospects in upcoming Assembly bypolls

The Madhya Pradesh Congress on Friday embraced estranged BJP leader and former Minister Balendu Shukla back within its fold, hoping his return would bolster its prospects in the upcoming Assembly by-elections in the Gwalior-Chambal region.

Balendu Shukla joins Congress in the presence of State party chief Kamal Nath in Bhopal on Friday.
Balendu Shukla joins Congress in the presence of State party chief Kamal Nath in Bhopal on Friday.

Three-time MLA Mr. Shukla had parted ways with the Congress in 2009 after differences with Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has now switched over to the BJP. The move is reported to have nudged Mr. Shukla, who was a close aide and childhood friend of Mr. Jyotiraditya’s father Madhavrao, a staunch Congressman, to return to the Congress.

He joined the party in the presence of State unit president and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath at his residence.

Ahead of the by-elections to 24 seats, supposed to be held by September, the Congress believes the leader, who is a prominent Brahmin face in the Gwalior-Chambal region, will lend it crucial heft in the elections to 16 seats of the region. Although Mr. Jyotiraditya’s exit from the party, along with 22 MLAs pledging allegiance to him, pulled the rug from under Mr. Nath’s government, it left in its wake a leadership vacuum for the Congress especially in the region.

“Congress leaders who switch over to the BJP return as they feel disillusioned there. The BJP just uses leaders and throws them away,” said Shobha Oza, senior Congress leader. “They are neglected there and eventually come back.”

Pointing out that the Congress kept its doors open for anyone wishing to join it, Ms. Oza said, “We don’t horse trade. If someone can stick to our ideology, we accept them.”

Mr. Shukla’s switchover comes days after former Lok Sabha MP from Ujjain on Congress ticket Premchand Borasi “Guddu” and his son, who lost in the previous Assembly election, returned to the Congress on May 31 after his brief tenure in the BJP that he joined ahead of the 2018 Assembly election.

Critique of Scindia

Another critique of Mr. Jyotiraditya, he was expelled by the BJP for making remarks against the BJP leader. Now, Mr. Borasi, a Dalit leader, is being seen as a contender to former Congressman Tulsiram Silawat, a Cabinet Minister now, on the Sanwer seat.

Both the returnees had differences with Mr. Jyotiraditya in the past, explained Ms. Oza. “They felt let down by the BJP.”

With inputs from The Hindu