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Embarrassment and opportunity for Cong

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2009 00:00 IST
Saroj Nagi
Highlight Story

Congress president Sonia Gandhi disapproved of the statement made by UP party chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi against CM Mayawati even as her party geared up for a political battle with the BSP leader in the state where it is striving to emerge as an alternative.

With the Congress distancing itself from her remarks, Joshi’s days as state unit chief appear numbered. Sonia, however, will take a decision after getting her version of the story.

“Whatever happened is unfortunate. The Congress president has expressed anguish,” said Janardan Dwivedi, media department chairman.

“Joshi could have expressed herself without using the words she did,” he said, adding that the party “regretted the personal element” in her remarks.

“The Congress holds women in the highest esteem and does not believe in crossing the limits of sobriety even in the most provocative of circumstances,” Dwivedi said in a statement aimed at containing the damage done to Congress standing among Dalits in UP where the party won 21 Lok Sabha seats.

Sonia has reportedly also asked Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal to make a statement in Parliament, where proceedings were derailed on Thursday. The issue is likely to come up in the House again on Friday and during Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Amethi on Friday.

While distancing itself from Joshi’s remarks, the Congress is also trying to convert this political embarrassment into an opportunity by gearing up for an aggressive battle against Mayawati. It condemned the arson on Joshi’s house and demanded that she prove her fairness by acting against the arsonists. Party leaders warned that if Joshi is denied bail and the allegedly BSP-backed arsonists not booked, Congress workers would take to the streets.

The party’s UP in-charge Digvijay Singh demanded a CBI probe into the arson and said Joshi hadn’t violated the Scheduled Caste Act under which she is booked. He denied the BSP charge that Congressmen were involved in the incident.