Congress national spokesperson and a key aide of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Tom Vadakkan joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday, claiming he was "hurt deeply" by the Congress' reaction to the Pulwama attack.
A week after the suicide attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, Congress had accused the BJP of politicising the attack for electoral gains and invoking the death of 42 CRPF soldiers at its campaign rallies. The party had also claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been shooting for a film at Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand on the day of the terror attack.
"I left the Congress because when Pakistani terrorists attacked our land, my party's reaction to it was sad," he said at a press conference at the BJP headquarters in Delhi. "It hurt me deeply when you questioned the integrity of the armed forces. At a time like this, it is not right to engage in such commentary. If a political party takes such a position that is against the country, then I'm left with no option but to leave the party."
Vadakkan's defection is the latest major loss to the Congress in the past week. Just earlier in the day, senior Trinamool Congress MLA Arjun Singh joined the BJP. On Tuesday, Sujay Vikhe Patil, the son of Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, joined the saffron party. Last week, former Biju Janata Dal leader Jay Panda joined the BJP.
BJP's latest high-profile entrant had held several top positions in the Congress. Vadakkan, who joined Congress in the 1980s, was the national spokesperson when he jumped ship on Thursday, and earlier, he was a secretary in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and a convenor of the AICC grievance cell. He had been handpicked by Rajiv Gandhi to be part of a four-member media team of the Congress — AICC's first dedicated media department. He enjoyed the trust of the high command, but didn't hold much clout among party workers in Kerala.
Although Vadakkan claims he left Congress for questioning the timing of the Pulwama attack, the "deep hurt" he felt didn't stop him from retweeting tweets that were critical of the government or its handling of the situation after the JeM strike.
Vadakkan may be singing praises of the BJP and its leaders now — at the press conference on Thursday, he said he was influenced by Modi's efforts to change the narrative around development — he was one of the saffron party's most vocal critics till just a few days ago.
His displeasure with the Congress was not very evident if we observe his social media presence. At the time of publishing this story, his Twitter bio still read "National Spokesperson, Congress". Also, like every faithful Congress leader, he had retweeted Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi's first Twitter post on Tuesday.
Some of his sarcastic jibes at the BJP were also borderline amusing, if not outright funny. "PMO likely to change the name of reservation to 'self-preservation'." and "Once you join the BJP all your crimes are cleansed" are just two of his many gems. Vadakkan also called Defence Minister Nirmal Sitharaman a "cover up artist", in reference to her defence of the NDA government's Rafale fighter jet deal.
Here are some of his Twitter barbs at the BJP from not too long ago:
Some of Vadakkan's other comments on the BJP include:
* "Sardar Patel does not need a certificate from the BJP. His legacy is across India." (after Modi unveiled the Statue of Unity in Gujarat)
* "Never before in the history of India, petroleum prices have shot up for 16 consecutive days... This government is an expert in election management, election propaganda and headline management."
* "Christian Michel had said before his extradition on record in court that he was being pressured to name a member of the Gandhi family." (on the alleged AgustaWestland middleman purportedly naming "Mrs Gandhi" during his interrogation in the case)
While Vadakkan claims he left the Congress for disrespecting the armed forces, there is speculation that being denied a ticket for decades was the cause. In the past, Vadakkan had expressed his wish to contest the elections a number of times, but the suggestion was either shot down by the party or its local workers (there was a revolt in the Kerala Congress in 2009 over Vadakkan's Thrissur candidature). For the upcoming Lok Sabha election, as well, the Congress is believed to have denied the Thrissur native a ticket from the constituency, resulting in his defection.
The BJP, however, is mum on whether the veteran Congress spokesperson will contest the polls on a party ticket. Kerala BJP president Sreedharan Pillai told The News Minute that Vadakkan would be accommodated in the party, but he was unwilling to reveal whether he will contest the polls.
He has been a familiar name in political circles for decades, but has no experience in office, having never contested an election. It is unclear yet in what capacity the BJP has inducted Vadakkan, whether as a party candidate or a spokesperson again.
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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2019 16:50:58 IST