Former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri, other M.P. Congress leaders quit to join BJP

Suresh Pachouri, a former Minister of State for Defence and Parliamentary Affairs, says he opposes the Congress’ tilt towards caste-based politics, approach to the Ram Mandir issue, and questioning of the Army

March 09, 2024 11:23 am | Updated 06:50 pm IST - BHOPAL

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP state President V.D. Sharma welcome senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri as he joins BJP, at BJP office, in Bhopal, Saturday, March 9, 2024.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP state President V.D. Sharma welcome senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri as he joins BJP, at BJP office, in Bhopal, Saturday, March 9, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri, along with other Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh, switched loyalties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday, dealing the Congress a major blow ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

Thise who quit the Congress and joined the BJP include: Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi, the former Lok Sabha MP from Dhar; former MLAs Sanjay Shukla of Indore-1; Vishal Patel of Indore’s Depalpur; and Arjun Paliya of Narmadapuram’s Pipariya constituency. 

The development comes at a time when the Congress is deliberating on its candidate selection for the Lok Sabha election. The BJP has already announced names for 24 out of 29 seats in the State. Notably, Dhar and Indore are among the five remaining constituencies where the BJP is yet to name its candidates. 

‘Against caste politics’

Mr. Pachouri, 71, a four time Rajya Sabha MP and a prominent Brahmin face in the State Congress, has also been a Union Minister of State in the governments of former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao, and Manmohan Singh, in prominent Ministries such as Defence and Parliamentary Affairs. He was also the State party president from 2008 to 2011 and was considered close to the Gandhi family. 

After his induction into the BJP at the party’s State headquarters, Mr. Pahcouri hit out at the Congress, accusing the party of indulging in caste-based politics. “After Independence, there was a tradition in the Congress that we will establish a caste-less and class-less society. But today, we are talking on caste lines. This is increasing friction among caste groups,” he said.

He also referred to a Congress slogan from the 1980s — Na jaat par na paat par, Indira ji ki baat par, muhar lagegi haath par (Neither on caste nor on class, but the votes will be cast for the Congress’ ‘hand’ poll symbol on the word of then-PM Indira Gandhi) — and alleged that such sentiments had been sidelined in the party now. 

Congress leader and former party president Rahul Gandhi has been actively advocating for a nationwide caste census, claiming that it would help give proper representation for underprivileged communities.

‘Joined BJP unconditionally’

Mr. Pachouri also slammed the Congress’ decision to skip the Ayodhya Ram Mandir consecration ceremony and its alleged questioning of the armed forces. “I have been the [Minister of State for] Defence and there were never questions raised or evidence demanded about the Army’s valour,” he said.

Former M.P. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was among the senior BJP leaders who welcomed Mr. Pachouri into the party, said that he had joined the BJP “without any condition”.

Over the past two months, a significant number of Congress leaders in the State have jumped over to the BJP.

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