New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) In a major setback to the Congress, senior Uttar Pradesh leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Thursday quit the party after 24 years to join the BJP, with the all-important state assembly polls a few months away.
Joshi, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of party chief Amit Shah, also gave up her membership of the Uttar Pradesh assembly.
Announcing her decision to quit the Congress — as was being being widely speculated for the past few days over her apparent unhappiness at being sidelined in Uttar Pradesh — Joshi did not spare Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in her parting shot.
Joshi was among those at the forefront in championing Rahul Gandhi as leader not too long ago.
“Soniaji used to understand us. She might take any decision but used to listen to us. But even that is not possible under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi,” Joshi told reporters after joining the BJP.
In a fierce attack on the Congress Vice President, Joshi said: “His leadership is not acceptable not just to Uttar Pradesh but the entire nation. Even senior leaders of the state are angry.”
“The way he should have given leadership to a national party, he failed to do it seriously. His leadership is not acceptable to the people.”
Joshi said it was not an easy decision for her to quit the Congress but she took it in the interest of the country.
Joshi also criticised Rahul Gandhi’s “khoon ki dalali” remark on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said the Congress demand for proof of the army’s surgical strikes acoss the Line of Control made her angry.
The Congress reacted with disdain to Joshi’s desertion.
The party dubbed her an “opportunist” and said she left the party as she knew she couldn’t have won in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
“This is absolute opportunism. She just made an excuse to leave. The reality is she couldn’t have won the election. The contest is very tough,” said Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Joshi was apparently miffed at the party naming Sheila Dikshit the chief ministerial face for Uttar Pradesh and Raj Babbar as the state party chief.
On Joshi’s comments on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, Azad said: “These are all excuses. Those who leave, they leave by blaming the party. The real reason was she knew she couldn’t have won.”
Raj Babbar said her defection would make no difference to the party in Uttar Pradesh just as her brother’s (former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna) leaving the Congress in Uttarakhand had no impact.
In a sharp attack, Babbar said, “She said she is a history teacher; today, she has repeated her family history.”
Joshi, a former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief, also took on Congress poll manager in Uttar Pradesh Prashant Kishor, saying “a poll manager can never be a poll director”.
“After the 2014 Lok Sabha debacle, the way Congress should have proceeded, it didn’t.”
Joshi till not long ago was known as an ardent supporter of Rahul Gandhi. But on Thursday, she accused the Congress of handing over the whole election management to Prashant Kishor.
“Not only the direction of the election but the whole leadership was handed over to him. The party has lost its credibility… What can be more unfortunate than a party being given out on contact? Even powerful leaders were not allowed to speak freely,” she said.
Joshi also took on Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party and the main opposition Bahujan Samaj Party.
“Both the SP and BSP have looted the state. There is mafia raj in Uttar Pradesh. UP needs to be freed from both these parties.”
Joshi is daughter of the late Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna,a Congress stalwart, and sister of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who joined the BJP some time back.
Joshi is likely to be the BJP candidate from Lucknow Cantt against Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav.
Several leaders of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress flayed Joshi for joining the BJP and accused her of compromising on her secular credentials for personal gains.
Senior Congress leader Satyadev Tripathi accused her of hobnobbing with the communal forces for quite some time and passing information on party affairs to the rival camp.
Several other Congress leaders too slammed Joshi for her scathing remarks against party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, dubbing them “baseless and mischievous”.