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Posted at: Mar 14, 2019, 2:04 PM; last updated: Mar 15, 2019, 10:11 AM (IST)

Congress stunned as Rajiv Gandhi loyalist Tom Vadakkan joins BJP

Speculation rife BJP veteran Khanduri’s son may join Cong
Congress stunned as Rajiv Gandhi loyalist Tom Vadakkan joins BJP
Congress leader Tom Vadakkan on Thursday joined the BJP. Tribune Photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 14

The season of defections is finally here. As Lok Sabha elections draw close, the Congress, BJP and a section of regional parties are bracing for the impact of political exits and entries.

In this game of poll time switches, the Congress is increasingly finding itself at the receiving end. The party was stunned today when its long-time loyalist and an old AICC media hand, Tom Vadakkan, crossed over to the BJP.

Vadakkan was one of the four Congress leaders the late PM Rajiv Gandhi had handpicked in 1989 to lead the first dedicated AICC media cell. Until May 2015, Vadakkan ruled the roost in the party’s communication department as AICC secretary (media). But after Haryana Congress strongman Randeep Surjewala took charge of Congress communications, Vadakkan found himself progressively sidelined. Besides, he had been putting up with the denial of the Lok Sabha nomination from Kerala for years.

Personal reasons apart, Vadakkan’s political reason for switching to the BJP was interesting. He blamed Congress’ response to post-Pulwama attacks for his exit. 

“When my party started questioning the integrity of the armed forces and acting against national interest, I had no option but to leave it,” said Vadakkan, accusing Congress under Rahul Gandhi of “using and throwing people”, “spawning dynastic politics” and “constricting the space for self-respecting people”.

Even Trinamool Congress’ Arjun Singh, a four-term MLA, who joined the BJP in Bengal today cited West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s post-Pulwama reactions as an alibi to shift loyalties.

The BJP too is feeling the defection heat. Its Uttarakhand unit was on the edge today amid a possible Congress switchover of Manish Khanduri, son of state BJP stalwart BC Khanduri.

In Uttar Pradesh earlier, BJP lost its former Bharaich MP Savitri Bai Phule to Congress, which also poached from BSP a former MP, Kaisar Jahan. Phule and Jahan have bagged Congress tickets from Bharaich and Sitapur, the segments they represented. Former SP national secretary and spokesman Sanjay Agarwal also joined the Congress on Thursday.

With defections looming, the Congress has been grappling for days with wild speculation of a possible loss of senior non-Jat leaders in Haryana to the BJP.  The name of former Kurukshetra MP Naveen Jindal has been doing the rounds even though he recently took to Twitter to deny any such possibility.

Cong ex-MP Arvind Sharma meets Shah  

Former Congress MP from Karnal Arvind Sharma met BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi on Wednesday, triggering possibilities of his joining the BJP. Sources said the two discussed the prevailing political situation in Haryana. Sharma had quit the Congress after losing the 2014 LS election from Karnal.

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