NEW DELHI: Proving speculations right, Congress party’s former chief of Uttar Pradesh and prominent Brahmin face Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Thursday joined the BJP cleverly packaging the switch with a patriotic message and a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi. As has been the wont of former Congress leaders deserting the party, Joshi too lashed out at Rahul’s “incapable” leadership, contrasting it with his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s style of functioning and understanding of grass-root politics.
“The biggest leaders of the Uttar Pradesh Congress have not been able to act under the new leadership. Soniaji used to listen to us, but that is not happening under the leadership of Rahul,” Joshi said.
Draped in a lotus-imprinted saffron scarf, she justified her desertion of the party by expressing her patriotic sentiments and hurt over Rahul’s insensitive “khoon ki dalali” comments on the Prime Minister.
“I resigned from the Congress today and joined BJP. It wasn’t easy for me. Whatever the result of the surgical strikes may have been, the Modi government decided to take full responsibility. Congress
leaders and the media started questioning the surgical strikes. I was deeply hurt. I even expressed my displeasure on Twitter. It was not called for. It inspired me to take this decision,” she said, with BJP president Amit Shah by her side.
“Our Army needs the support of government and nation,” Joshi said.
If there was dismay in the Congress camp, it was quickly covered up with a doubled-barreled attack from current UP PCC chief Raj Babbar and party’s State in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad. Babbar called Joshi a arty hopper — “dal badlu” who “is being true to her family tradition of switching camps” — set “by father H N Bahuguna and brother Vijay Bahuguna”.
Joshi was in the SP first and then the Congress. “Now, she’s joined BJP, God knows where we would find her next,” Babbar quipped.
Azad, however, almost sounded sad, terming her exit as “an opportunistic search for a safe seat”. The Congress veteran said he was aware Joshi was tapping the SP and then the BSP for a “safe seat”. “Well, she finally landed herself in the BJP.”
For the Congress, which is fighting odds in UP, her exit caused more embarrassment than damage. Joshi’s term as UPCC chief had been rather lackluster. And, if she had to switch camps to retain an
Assembly seat, her absence would not be causing a dent, Azad argued. On her part, Joshi hinted, after Babbar’s appointment as UPCC chief and the projection of Sheila Dikshit as the CM candidate, she did not see much of a role for her in the UP Congress.
“Prashant Kishor can be a poll manager but not the poll director. Unfortunately, everything was given in his hands. I felt that the Congress has lost the support of the people. People of Uttar Pradesh do not accept the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Even strong leaders of the Pradesh cannot speak their views under the leadership of Rahul,” Joshi lashed out.
As the daughter of H N Bahuguna, one-time Congress CM of UP, 67-year-old Joshi felt she had a better legacy and political clout in the State than Sheila Diskhit. Well, it is that legacy, the Congress now cites to ridicule her departure from the party.
H N Bahuguna had similarly deserted Indira Gandhi in 1977 to join Jagjivan Ram’s Congress for Democracy, thus settling scores for his removal from the CM post by Indira in 1975. He later rejoined the Congress for short-term on Sanjay Gandhi’s persuasion, only to leave for the Janata Dal after not getting a ministerial berth.
Bahuguna was later famously defeated by then Rajiv Gandhi acolyte Amitabh Bachchan from Allahabad. The latter had coined the slur “Natwarlal” for him, to underline his habit of switching camps.
Bahuguna’s son and Joshi’s brother Vijaya Bahuguna, also Congress CM of Uttarakhand, joined the BJP, nursing grouse against Harish Rawat, who replaced him.
Said a Congress source, while Vijaya Bahuguna’s son Saket “was engineering defection in the Congress (in Uttarakhand),
Joshi had been sent to convince her brother not to leave the party”. But as fate would have it, before she could reach her destination, her nephew was expelled from the Congress and “that was the end”.
Her exit was on the cards ever since.