Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Thursday targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her 'silence' after state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi's 'highly condemnable remarks' against her and also accused the Congress party of engineering an attack on Joshi's residence in Lucknow.
Terming Joshi's earlier remarks as "objectionable, reprehensible and highly condemnable", she said: "The BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) as a whole condemns Joshi in the strongest of words.
"The manner in which Sonia Gandhi has failed to chastise her (Joshi) and has chosen to remain silent arouses suspicion that whatever this woman (Joshi) did was on the direction of the Congress high command only," Mayawati told a press conference.
"As far as I am concerned Rita Bahuguna Joshi's act was unpardonable."
Joshi was arrested near Ghaziabad in the wee hours of Thursday for her defamatory remarks against Mayawati, and later remanded to 14 days judicial custody. Around the same time, her residence in Lucknow was attacked by a mob and set on fire.
"I have a feeling that the attack has been stage-managed by the Congress party itself with the intent to divert the main issue of Joshi's highly condemnable remarks against me," Mayawati said.
Giving a clean chit to her party workers, she added: "My partymen are well disciplined and there is no question of their involvement in any such act, especially since I had personally told them to hold back their anger against Joshi's remarks.
"In fact, no sooner than the news broke out about the UPCC (Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee) president's objectionable remarks against me, BSP workers across the country had decided to go up in arms and stage street demonstrations everywhere.
However, in the larger interest of maintaining peace and harmony in the nation, I prevailed over them in urging them to maintain calm and not react."
She said: "I felt that any reaction by my partymen would have led to uproar that could have unnecessarily caused sufferings to innocent people simply because of certain irresponsible and deplorable utterances by this woman (Joshi)."
At the same time, she said: "We have taken a serious note of the incident and have ordered an independent inquiry into it."
The BSP chief also referred to a book by Joshi on her father, late Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, in which she, according to Mayawati, was critical of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Displaying a copy of the book, she said: "Simply because Sonia Gandhi chose to condone the objectionable writing by this woman against the Gandhi family, she started thinking no end of herself so much so that now she had the audacity to make obscene remarks against me."