Congress leader Jitin Prasada today brushed off as "hypothetical" questions on whether he was headed to the BJP despite being declared a candidate for the April-May national election by his party. Jitin Prasada, 45, is one of the Congress's most prominent leaders in politically vital Uttar Pradesh.
"Why should I answer hypothetical questions? What is the basis of your question? I am not answerable to the clipping, I am answerable to myself. If it's on Wikipedia, ask them. You are saying I reports suggested I would join by evening, it is already evening, I am in front of you, what do I say," Jitin Prasada told reporters on Friday evening.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala was more emphatic in his denial: "Jitin bhai and I go back a long way. I never use this kind of language but I can say it is b***s***."
Despite its outward denials, the Congress did appear to be firefighting behind the scenes. Sources say Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the general secretaries in charge of Uttar Pradesh, met with Jitin Prasada in the party's attempt to mollify him.
The Congress had recently announced Jitin Prasada as a candidate from Dhaurahra, one of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
Some said the young leader, once seen to be in Congress president Rahul Gandhi's inner circle, had felt sidelined in the party for a while.
It may have also rankled, said a section of Congress leaders, that Rahul Gandhi chose Jyotiraditya Scindia from Madhya Pradesh to share the task of managing the Congress campaign in Uttar Pradesh with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Jitin Prasada's father Jitendra Prasada, a veteran Congress leader, had challenged the leadership of Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi in 1999 and had also contested against her for the post of party chief. Jitendra Prasada lost the bid. He died two years later in 2002.
Significantly, Jitin Prasada in 2017 moved a resolution urging Rahul Gandhi to take over as Congress chief from his mother Sonia.
Jitin Prasada is a key candidate in UP, where Congress nominees see dimmer chances of winning as the party is contesting on its own and faces the BJP and the gathbandhan of BSP, Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).