In a big blow to the Congress ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, senior leader RPN Singh quit the party on Tuesday and joined the BJP at the party headquarters in Delhi. He said that he was ready to serve the nation under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief J P Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah.
In his resignation letter addressing party president Sonia Gandhi, Singh thanked the party for giving him the “opportunity to serve the nation, people and the party”.
“Today, at a time, we are celebrating the formation of our great Republic, I begin a new chapter in my political journey. Jai Hind,” he tweeted along with his resignation letter.
Reacting to Singh’s resignation, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shinate said: “The battle which Congress party is fighting can be fought only with bravery… It requires courage, strength and Priyanka Gandhi Ji has said that coward people can’t fight it.”
Shortly before quitting the party, Singh had dropped the party’s name from his Twitter bio thereby fuelling speculations of him joining the saffron camp. “My motto India, First, Always,” reads his new bio on the microblogging site.
This comes just a day after the Congress named the senior leader in its list of star campaigners for Uttar Pradesh on Monday.
RPN Singh was an MLA from the Padrauna constituency of Uttar Pradesh between 1996 and 2009, whereafter he was elected as the MP from the constituency in the 15th Lok Sabha election.
Serving as Congress’ Jharkhand in-charge before quitting the party, Singh is believed to have been sidelined in the party. He lost the last election from UP’s Padrauna and is likely to be fielded from the same seat against SP’s Swami Prasad Maurya, who recently jumped ship from the BJP.
This is the second big exit from the Congress in Uttar Pradesh after Jitin Prasada quit last year. Prasada joined the BJP and later became a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath.
Singh’s exit is politically damaging to the Congress as he is considered to be one of the Generation Next leaders of the party. Though he is 57 years old, he was seen as among the leaders who would be part of Rahul Gandhi’s future Congress.
Singh belongs to the OBC Kurmi caste and his elevation as AICC in-charge of Jharkhand some years ago was seen as the party’s signal that it was now giving weightage to OBC-centric politics. Both Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel belong to the OBC community.
It also signals that despite the tall claims made by the Congress and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, ground-level leaders of the party in Uttar Pradesh sense that the chances of the party’s revival in the politically and electorally crucial state are bleak.
UP goes to polls in seven phases from February 10 to March and the votes will be counted on March 10.