Rita Bahuguna Joshi joins BJP. Here's why the Congress isn't bothered
One of the Congress' most prominent leaders in Uttar Pradesh - Rita Bahuguna Joshi - joined the BJP on Thursday. But the grand old party appears least worried.
Contrary to media reports of Joshi's exit hurting the Congress, the party leadership believes that she commands no mass base and her joining BJP would have no impact whatsoever on party's prospects in 2017 UP Assembly elections. Citing Congress' performance in the 2012 Assembly elections, when she was the UP Congress president, these leaders claim the results spoke volumes about her popularity in the state. After the results of the assembly elections were announced, the 67-year-old Joshi tendered her resignation as PCC chief taking responsibility for the defeat. Even in 2014, she lost to Rajnath Singh in Lucknow by a difference of over 2.7 lakh votes, making matters worse for her.
Ever since the 2012 assembly results and a new team taking over Congress' UP unit - with Sheila Dikshit as the CM face and Raj Babbar as state unit president - the writing was on the wall and it was a matter of time before Joshi quit the party. Incidentally, her brother, former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, defected to the BJP in May this year.
Events in the last few months suggested that Joshi was left with not much option considering she had been completely sidelined by the central leadership. Even her role in the UP Congress Committee was almost negligible and she was kept out of the day to day affairs of the party. Certain incidents in the recent past suggest that all was not well between the former PCC president and the Congress leadership.
In one such incident, few weeks back, office bearers of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress had gathered at the AICC headquarters in Delhi to discuss party's election strategy for the forthcoming Assembly polls in the state when Joshi paid a surprise visit. Reporters were surprised to see Joshi who had been missing from such crucial meetings ever since the new UP team had taken charge.
Immediately, she made her way into Congress' UP in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad's room, where the meeting was taking place, and came out within the next few minutes and hurriedly left without even speaking to the media. The meeting went on for the next few hours, but Joshi's exit did fuel rumours of her being ignored by the leadership from crucial decision making process.
Few days later, reports of Joshi joining the BJP started to do the rounds while Congress kept calling them baseless rumours, maintaining that the former Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President was unwell. Even her husband and Congress leader PC Joshi dismissed these reports and claimed she had severe throat infection because of which she couldn't offer an explanation.
Vijay Bahuguna, who recently defected from Congress and joined BJP, too dismissed these reports. But the rumours were finally put to rest on Thursday when Joshi joined the BJP in presence of party president Amit Shah.
Joshi targets Rahul Gandhi
Blaming Rahul Gandhi's leadership and his "khoon ki dalali" remarks on the surgical strikes across the Line of Control for her exit, Joshi said, "I was hurt with the khoon ki dalali remarks. How could Congress ask for proof of strikes?". The 67-year-old Joshi added that the Congress vice-president's leadership is not acceptable to the people of UP and India.
"Sonia Gandhi understood the organisation and used to listen to party workers, but Rahul does not. His leadership is not acceptable to the people of UP or the nation. Even senior Congress leaders are not happy with him. Rahul Gandhi has been unable to provide the kind of leadership that a national party like the Congress needs. The people have rejected his leadership," she added. Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadeship, Joshi said that UP wants his leadership.
Apart from the Gandhi scion, she was also extremely critical of poll strategist Prashant Kishor who is said to have played a crucial role in sidelining her party's day to day affairs. "PK can be a poll manager and not a poll director. Unfortunately, the entire direction and leadership of the election has been given to him. Nothing could be more unfortunate than handing over the party on contract (to Prashant Kishor)," she said.