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Congress sees bragging points in Vajpayee’s niece

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The Congress is getting ready to flaunt a prize catch — Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla — at a time the party has been grappling with desertions and prospective allies are exploring greener pastures.

Congress sources revealed that Shukla had agreed to join the party and her entry could be announced in a couple of days with fanfare.

Although she does not add political muscle to the Congress’s faltering campaign for the general election, she holds immense symbolic value because of the Vajpayee legacy.

Shukla, who won the Janjgir Lok Sabha seat from Chhattisgarh in 2004, was made national vice-president of the BJP only because of her association with the former Prime Minister. She quit the party in October 2013, just before the Assembly elections, saying the BJP no longer followed the principles of Vajpayee.

What has caused excitement in the Congress is her public utterances about Narendra Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots. She has talked about Vajpayee’s advice on adhering to “rajdharma” and argued that Modi continues to carry the blot of the 2002 riots.

The BJP would find it extremely difficult to confront her if she attacks Modi or the party’s deviations from Vajpayee’s moderate politics. While the ailing leader is no longer involved in active politics, the BJP has never uttered a word of disrespect to any member of his family.

The Congress, which lost Rajmohan Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s grandson to the Aam Aadmi Party and several Gujarat MLAs to the BJP, views Shukla’s crossover as having great value.

Although no senior leader was willing to confirm the plan, sources said Shukla would join this week.

The Congress has a serious dearth of Brahmin leaders and the party hopes that Shukla’s entry would send a positive signal to the upper caste, at least in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Shukla belongs to Chhattisgarh, a state where both the towering Brahmin leaders of the Congress, Vidya Charan Shukla and Shyama Charan Shukla, have passed away.

The Congress is also planning to announce the entry of eminent personalities into the party in the coming days. There is a possibility that some of them would contest the Lok Sabha elections.