A day after Gandhi family loyalist Tom Vadakkan joined the BJP, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday dismissed his exit saying “Vadakkan is not a big leader”.

Responding to reporters in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur, Gandhi said, “Vadakkan? No, no Vadakkan is not a big leader.”

In a major setback for the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, senior leader Tom Vadakkan on Thursday in a surprise move joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying he was “hurt” by his party’s questioning of the integrity of armed forces.

He also said that he believed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development narrative.

Vadakkan was referring to the Balakot strike, after which, many Congress leaders demanded proof of the retaliatory assault and casualties in the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide bombing that left over 44 CRPF men dead.

“I left Congress party because when Pakistani terrorists attacked our land, my party’s reaction to it was sad, it hurt me deeply. 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,” he said.

“I gave my prime of life to the Congress. But dynastic politics is now at its zenith in the party… There’s no place in it for self-respecting people,” he was uoted as saying by NDTV.

The Congress leader was welcomed into the BJP by party chief Amit Shah, who earlier joined the party in the presence of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Following the Pulwama terror attack, India carried out “non-military pre-emptive” airstrikes targeting the JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early on February 26.

The opposition has on many occasions, raised questions on the number of casualties put out by government sources since the strike.