QUITS: Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan quits Congress, joins BJP; hails Modi, Balakot

NEW DELHI/TVM: In a surprise turn, AICC spokesperson Tom Vadakkan joined the BJP on Thursday. He praised prime minister Narendra Modi and expressed his protest over the Congress stand on Pulwama  terrorist attack and Balakot IAF counter-strike. Tom Vadakkan was given the BJP membership at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi by Union Law Minister and BJP leader from Bihar, Ravishankar Prasad. 

Tom Vadakkan had much of his political engagements in the past over three decades with the AICC in Delhi, though he was born and brought up in Kerala. Ravishankar Prasad welcomed Vadakkan into the BJP.

The exit of Vadakkan comes on a day when Rahul Gandhi was attending several programmes in Kerala, including a Maha Rally in Kozhikode, which is styled as the launch-pad for the Congress-led UDF’s campaign in the state. Tom  hails form the family of late Father Vadakkan, a straggler Christian priest  who was a Communist camp follower and front-line campaigner for the undivided Communist party in Kerala in the 1950s and 60s.

Three MLAs from the Congress had quit the Congress in Gujarat, to the BJP side, in recent days. So did some prominent Congressmen from Mahatashtra. 
Also, a Trinamool Congress MLA from West Bengal, Arjun Singh, who represented the Bhatpara assembly constituency, left the party and joined the BJP.

In Kerala, some middle-level Congress leaders had joined the BJP in recent months, and more are expected to shift to the BJP side soon. Tom Vadakkan’s is just a start, which shook the Congress leadership also because he, like several other Christian leaders in the Congress from Kerala, was close to Sonia Gandhi. In fact, Sonia Gandhi had created a ring around her with these Congress leaders from Kerala — namely AK Antony, PC Chacko, KV Thomas, P J Kurien etc besides Tom. Another Christian leader Oommen Chandy was not very much in her reckoning. Chandy was not as close to her possibly due to the rift between him and AK Antony at a personal level. 

Tom Vadakkan, who is close to some Church denominations and hails from Thrissur district, is likely to be used prominently by the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Another prominent Christian, Alphons Kannanthanam, a former civil service official, had been inducted into the BJP and made a Union minister, and is an asset to the BJP in its engagements with the Christian church denominations in Kerala. 

Tom Vadakkan was among those who were put in cold storage by Rahul Gandhi after he took over as Congress president.

Membership … Tom in Delhi, Thursday.

Tom Vadakkan was in Thrissur two weeks ago, but local scribes say no hint came of his likely shifting of political alliance. There were rumours during every Lok Sabha polls in the past that senior AICC leader Tom Vadakkan would be the Congress nominee in Thrissur. Such talks were circulated this time too when he was in Thrissur. Though he was friendly with several journalists, in Delhi, no one had any hint of what was about to happen. Such was the secrecy with which Vadakkan performed the vanishing act from the Congress.

Tom Vadakkan, in media interactions after he joined the BJP, said the Congress was blinded by dynasty politics. “It’s a mess, lots of power centres are operating in the Congress now,” he said, adding, “I am ready to contest polls, even from Nagaland.” As a backroom boy for the AICC and Sonia Gandhi, Tom had never been fielded in elections, also as he had less of roots in Kerala and the Congress in Kerala is already overweighed with Christian leaders.

Christians form over 60 lakh of Kerala’s 3.8crore polulation, forming over 18 per cent, while Muslims form 26 per cent. Among Hindus, Ezhavas form 24 per cent of the population and Nairs/Nambiars 12 per cent, and SC-STs 10 per cent.

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