Know Your Turncoats, Part 7: Meet six candidates who left NDA for Congress

A series looking at the defectors contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

WrittenBy:Nikita Singh& Sumedha Mittal
Date:
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Out of the 20 turncoats in phase two of the Lok Sabha polls, six joined the Congress from the BJP-led NDA – five from the BJP and one from its former ally RLP. Three of these politicians are from Rajasthan, two from Karnataka and one is from Madhya Pradesh. 

This is a Newslaundry series on the defectors contesting in the ongoing polls. In part six, we delved into the seven BJP candidates who joined the party after quitting the Congress – mostly weeks ahead of the polls set to be held on April 26.

In this piece, we look at the former NDA leaders who jumped ship and joined the grand old party. 

Prahlad Gunjal

Prahlad Gunjal is the Congress’s candidate from Rajasthan’s Kota.

The 56-year-old is a  two-time BJP MLA and close aide of former CM Vasundhra Raje. He was with the saffron party for four decades, since his student politics days. He snapped ties with the BJP in March, saying he cannot compromise with “khuddari”, or self-respect, and that he did not join politics to be someone’s “ghulam”, or slave.  

He rebelled against the party after police firing killed several people from his community during Gujjar reservation protests.

Notably, Raje was sidelined for the CM post despite the BJP’s victory in the 2023 Rajasthan assembly polls. Gunjal had lost from Kota by a small margin.   

This is not the first time that Gunjal has exited the saffron party. He rebelled against the party after police firing killed several people from his community during the 2007-08 Gujjar reservation protests. Raje was the CM then, and Gunjal was expelled from the party. 

He contested the 2008 assembly polls from a Loktantrik Samajwadi Party ticket, but lost. He rejoined the BJP in 2013 and won from Kota. In the next two polls, he faced defeat against Congress veteran Shanti Dhariwal.     

Pitted against BJP’s Om Birla in the current election, Gunjal accused a Rajasthan IG of being Birla’s “agent” and “murdering democracy”. He also accused  the police of pressuring Congress workers, conducting raids, and arresting 40 people in Kota within 15 days.

Harish Chandra Meena

Harish Chandra Meena is the Congress’s candidate from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan.

The 69-year-old bureaucrat-turned-politician had joined the BJP in 2014 after serving as a Cabinet secretary. Four years later, when he was the MP from Dausa, he quit the BJP and joined the Congress.  

Harish’s X account offers snapshots of his  campaign in Tonk with Sachin Pilot also cheering for him.

The former DGP belongs to the Meena community, which is influential in Rajasthan and is known to dominate politics and government services. One of his brothers is a bureaucrat, another is Namonarain Meena, a Congress politician who contested against Harish from Dausa. 

Harish’s X account offers snapshots of his  campaign in Tonk with Sachin Pilot also cheering for him in election rallies as well as social media.  In a recent statement, he said if the BJP retains power, there will be “dictatorship” in the country.  

Ummeda Ram Beniwal

Ummeda Ram Beniwal is the Congress’s candidate from Rajasthan’s Barmer constituency. He was previously with the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.

Beniwal is known as a grassroots leader and was considered a prominent face of the RLP in the region.

The 46-year-old was a close aide and confidante of RSP’s Hanuman Beniwal – now a part of the INDIA alliance. He joined the Congress weeks before the general election, and a week before the RLP announced its alliance with the opposition parties. The party was an NDA ally in the 2019 polls.  

Beniwal, who has risen from the ranks as a Barmer Zila Parishad member to an MLA, lost in Baytu in the 2023 assembly polls to Congress’s Harish Chaudhary by a small margin of 910 votes. He is known as a grassroots leader and was considered a prominent face of the RLP in the region.

On joining the Congress he said politicians like him are joining the grand old party to “save democracy”. 

Nilam Abhay Mishra

Nilam Abhay Mishra is the Congress’s candidate from Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa. 

The 51-year-old former MLA and her husband Congress MLA Abhay Mishra, a prominent name in Rewa, have been the party hopper couple over the past few years. 

Mishra alleged “humiliation” by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in 2019.

Mishra joined politics in 2013 and was with the BJP till 2018, when she wept in the assembly and alleged that the police “harassed” her at the behest of another local leader. She said it “exposed” the state of women’s safety in the BJP-governed state.   

She joined the Congress that year and was made the Bhadohi Congress chief, but quit a year later in 2019, along with her husband. She alleged “humiliation” by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, accusing her of using words that “should not have been used by a national general secretary of any party, let alone by a woman to another woman”.

The couple joined the BJP again in 2023, but left about two months later. They rejoined the Congress ahead of the MP assembly poll. 

Nilam is pitted against the BJP’s Janardhan Mishra in Rewa. Both the candidates belong to the Brahmin community, which hold sway in the constituency which is known to be a BJP bastion.  

Her wealth increased by over 27 percent from Rs 14 crore in 2011 to Rs 17.7 crore in 2024, and her spouse’s wealth grew massively from Rs 6 crore in 2010 to Rs 16 crore in the current year.   

Dr Jayaprakash Hegde

Dr Jayaprakash Hegde is contesting on a Congress ticket from Karnataka’s Udupi and Chikmagalur.  

The 71-year-old advocate and politician is credited for the formation of Udupi district.

The 71-year-old advocate and politician, credited for the formation of Udupi district, has won at least three elections as an independent candidate. He joined the Congress in the  late 1990s but was expelled from the party in 2015 after his fallout with late MP Oscar Fernandes.

Hegde, popular as a people’s leader, joined the BJP in 2017. He was made the chairman of the Karnataka Backward Class Commission by the then government and continued to remain in the position till he presented the caste census report earlier this year and retired a day later. 

SP Muddahanumegowda

SP Muddahanumegowda is the Congress’s candidate from Karnataka’s Tumkur.  

The 69-year-old is a former advocate, judicial officer and ex-MP from Tumkur.

The 69-year-old former advocate, judicial officer and ex-MP from Tumkur was a Congressman until he jumped ship to the BJP in 2022. But in less than two years, he returned to the Congress ahead of the general election. 

On returning to the Congress, he called it his “mother party” and said he wants to serve the Congress for his “remaining political life”.   

Muddahanumegowda was the only sitting Congress MP in Karnataka to be denied a ticket in the 2019 polls. The party gave the ticket to its ally JDS. 

Also see
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 6: 20 defectors in Phase 2, including 7 who shifted from Cong to BJP
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 5: A ‘Brahmin voice’ joins the BJP, a Congressman quits over a ticket
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 4: In Tamil Nadu, 50 percent defectors in BJP-led NDA
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