Update at 14:58: Hectic parlays are said to be ongoing between senior Congress leaders and Jitin Prasada as the party attempts to keep him on-board.
The Congress looks set to suffer another big setback in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with former UPA minister Jitin Prasada likely to jump ship to the BJP.
The development is especially critical given that Prasada had campaigned closely with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the short time that she has been an official member of the Congress. Further, he is the latest in what is quickly becoming a long list of Congress leaders to jump ship, the most recent being long-time Congress loyalist Tom Vadakkan.
Jitin Prasada had held three ministries in under the UPA governments, starting with being MoS Steel, then MoS Petroleum and Natural Gas, then MoS Road Transport and Highways, and finally, MoS in the Human Resources Development ministry.
Prasada, now 45, is a Congress long-timer given his age, having joined the Youth Congress in 2001. He won his first election to the Lok Sabha in 2004 from Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur, and then again five years later from Dhaurara. However, following the Congress' debacle in the 2014 elections, he also failed to win his election to the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2017.
At the BJP's end, on the other hand, cricketer Gautam Gambhir has strengthened the party's ranks by joining on Friday. Gambhir, who has been outspoken on a range of political and people's issues in the recent past, credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision as having played a role in his decision to enter politics.