Congress veteran Rita Bahuguna Joshi joins BJP, attacks Rahul Gandhi | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Congress veteran Rita Bahuguna Joshi joins BJP, attacks Rahul Gandhi

Former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday, dealing a potential blow to the Congress ahead of state elections due by early next year.

india Updated: Oct 20, 2016 23:11 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
BJP president Amit Shah looks on as party leader Arun Singh presents a scarf to former UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who joined the BJP in New Delhi on Thursday.
BJP president Amit Shah looks on as party leader Arun Singh presents a scarf to former UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who joined the BJP in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

Former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday, dealing a potential blow to the Congress ahead of state elections due by early next year.

Joshi, 67, slammed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, saying people had rejected his leadership and that the nation was upset over his criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the army’s surgical strike on militant camps inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir last month.

“The whole nation was upset with a phrase like ‘khoon ki dalali’,” Joshi, who had been the Congress’ state chief between 2007 and 2012, said referring to Rahul’s comment.

“Besides the valour of the army, the government’s strong leadership was also behind the surgical strikes. The whole world accepted India’s arguments behind the strikes. The Congress, however, behaved like a small party and went on to question it.”

A long-time Congress loyalist, Joshi became upset after the Congress decided to project former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, a Brahmin like herself, as the chief ministerial candidate. Her arrival is expected to boost the BJP’s efforts to consolidate Brahmin votes as the party looks to return to power after more than 15 years.

Joshi’s exit comes at a time when the Congress is seeking to build up a credible campaign to revive itself in a bellwether state it dominated before regional parties, built along caste lines, displaced it from power 27 years ago and left it a marginal player.

Read: Rita Bahuguna Joshi a betrayer, Shah amassing army of traitors: Cong

But Congress leaders said Joshi’s departure was of little consequence given the fact that in the two decades she spent with the party she had failed to emerge as a credible leader with any significant appeal, even among the upper castes.

Party general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad called her an “opportunist leader” who left the party for a safe seat.

“Opportunist leaders don’t stick to one place,” he said. Party’s new Uttar Pradesh chief Raj Babbar also taunted BJP chief Amit Shah of amassing an “army of dagabaaz (betrayers)”, referring to various leaders who deserted their parties to join the BJP.

In May, Joshi’s elder brother Vijay Bahuguna joined the BJP after a failed coup to topple the Harish Rawat-led Congress government in Uttarakhand. Their father Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, had also quit the Congress to float his own party and was famously defeated by Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan in Allahabad in the 1984 parliament polls.

Joshi, who spent 24 of her 27 years in politics with the Congress, also attacked Congress’poll strategist Prashant Kishor, saying he “can be a poll manager but not the poll director”.

“People have rejected Rahul Gandhi’s leadership,” she said at a press conference with BJP president Amit Shah by her side.

“Only BJP, PM Modi can help the country.”

Joshi lost the 2014 parliamentary polls to BJP’s Rajnath Singh, who went on to become the Union home minister.

(With agency inputs)