The Congress in Madhya Pradesh on Friday took back Balendu Shukla, an estranged BJP leader and former Minister, hoping that his return would bolster its prospects in the Assembly byelections in the Gwalior-Chambal region.
Mr. Shukla, a three-time MLA, quit the Congress in 2009 after he developed differences with Jyotiraditya Scindia. Mr. Scindia joining the BJP of late is said to have nudged Mr. Shukla, a close aide and childhood friend of Mr. Jyotiraditya’s father Madhavrao, to return to the Congress.
He joined the party in the presence of Congress State president and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath at his residence.
Ahead of the byelections to 24 seats, supposed to be held by September, the Congress believes Mr. Shukla, a prominent Brahmin face in the Gwalior-Chambal region, will lend it heft in 16 seats. Mr. Scindia’s exit from the party, along with 22 MLAs, toppled Mr. Nath’s government and caused a leadership vacuum in the Congress, especially in the Gwalior-Chambal region.
“Congress leaders who switch over to the BJP return as they feel disillusioned. The BJP uses leaders and throws them away,” said senior Congress leader Shobha Oza. “They are neglected there and eventually come back.” The Congress kept its doors open for anyone wishing to join it. It did not indulge in horse-trading. It accepted those sticking to its ideology, she said.
Mr. Shukla’s switch-over comes days after former Congress MP from Ujjain Premchand Borasi “Guddu” and his son, who lost in the previous Assembly election, returned to the Congress on May 31. He joined the BJP ahead of the 2018 Assembly election. Mr. Borasi was expelled by the BJP for his remarks against Mr. Jyotiraditya. A Dalit leader, Mr. Borasi is now seen as a challenger to Tulsiram Silawat, a Cabinet Minister and former Congressman, in Sanwer.
Both leaders had differences with Mr. Jyotiraditya in the past, said Ms. Oza. “They felt let down by the BJP.”
BJP State spokesman Hitesh Bajpai said the Congress was desperate to fill the vacuum caused by the turncoats. “As their actual leadership has quit the party, they are forced to find other leaders, starting from scratch. Both leaders who’ve joined the Congress are defunct in politics, and haven’t found space either in the Congress or in the BJP. They were unable to adjust themselves to our local leadership and were of no use to us anyway.”
Further, Mr. Bajpai contended that two different kinds of leaders switched over from the BJP to the Congress and vice-versa. “Those coming to us are active politicians, who see a future in the BJP. Whereas, those going to the Congress are either quite old already, out of line with our party. Mr. Shukla has felt estranged for 8-10 years now,” he said.”