In a jolt to the Congress a month before India goes to polls, senior party leader Tom Vadakkan joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday in the presence of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Vadakkan stated that he was upset with Congress' stand on the Pulwama attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
“It hurt me deeply when you question the integrity of the armed forces. The matter is not of ideology, this is about patriotism. If a political party takes a position against the country, I had no option but to leave the party,” Vadakkan, who has been the national spokesperson of the Congress, told the media.
Vadakkan is considered a close aide of UPA chairperson and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Addressing the media, he added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him and wished him well.
“I have worked for the Congress for 20 years. But dynastic politics has reached the zenith. A use-and-throw phenomenon has started,” he said.
Tom Vadakkan, who was an integral part of Congress’ media management team when Sonia Gandhi was the Congress chief, had lost his prominence after a new team under Rahul Gandhi took over. Moreover, Vadakkan, who has in the past expressed a desire to contest elections, has never been able to do so. And this time too, he was not slotted to get a ticket to contest from Kerala. This could have been the reason behind his resignation, though it is unclear if he would be a BJP candidate from Kerala this time.
BJP state President Sreedharan Pillai told TNM that Tom Vadakkan would be accommodated in the party, but he was unwilling to comment if Vadakkan would be contesting in the elections.
"Fielding him in the elections is something I won't discuss now. I don't think he has joined the party expecting a seat in the election, but it is in protest against the Congress' stand on the Pulwama attack. The BJP will have much gains in the state," Sreedharan Pillai told TNM.
A native of Thrissur, Vadakkan joined the Congress in the late 1980s, quitting a corporate job to become a media consultant for Rajiv Gandhi. In the 2009 elections, though he was a proposed candidate from Thrissur he was not given a ticket owing to a protest mainly from the Congress.
Vadakkan, though a familiar name among political circles, is a politician with zero impact among party workers. At one point of time, he was seen as an outsider in Kerala politics, but had enjoyed the high command’s confidence. In 2009, Kerala state spokesperson for Youth Congress, Gopa Prathap, was expelled from the party for six years for speaking against Vadakkan. At that time, even DCC President Thrissur CN Balakrishnan had said that giving a ticket to Vadakkan would be a move to 'impose outsiders’.
Through the years, Vadakkan has wanted to contest from the Thrissur seat many times. On some occasions, even though the high command was in favour of his candidature, local factions in the state opposed it each time, and that too successfully. In 2014, though influential Christian bishops had supported Tom Vadakkan, he was still not given a seat.