Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday launched a fresh offensive on lack of governance in Uttar Pradesh, even as its chief minister —Mayawati —asserted she will punish Rita Bahuguna Joshi for making derogatory comments against the Dalit leader.
Joshi, who heads the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested on Thursday following her comments, which were condemned by members across parties including the Congress and has since snowballed into a major political controversy.
“Joshi’s act was unpardonable and the law will take its course,” Mayawati said. “Like Varun Gandhi, she may also get bail but I am sure that sooner or later she will be punished.”
Joshi remains in police custody, as her bail petition could not be filed on Friday because of a lawyers’ strike. Her comments, made during a rally in Moradabad, were seen as insulting dalits and has given Mayawati an opportunity to stage a political comeback after the reverses in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
On Friday, Rahul Gandhi sought to shut that window of opportunity by deflecting attention to larger issues of governance in Uttar Pradesh.
He described Joshi’s remarks as “unfortunate” but said her anger against Maywati’s administration was genuine.
“For all practical purposes, the UP government has become fully non-functional and non-operational,” Gandhi said. “We work here in UP. It is our job to deliver on our programmes. We (the Centre) send money and it does not reach people,” he said, referring to plans such as the NREGA.
To a question on installation of statues by Mayawati, he said the chief minister’s priority are her own but his party’s priority is to work for the poor.
“There is place for statues and elephants (BSP symbol) but there should also be space for development and electricity,” Gandhi said.
The families of the five youths arrested on charges of setting fire to UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s house have alleged a frame-up.
Vegetable vendor Zaheer Khan, father of Zameer (20), said, “”My son has no crime record. He is being framed and made a scapegoat to save others. He was held more than two hours before the arson took place.”
Lucknow DIG Prem Prakash admitted, “There is no progress in the case since the arrest of five people.” He refused to comment on allegations that innocents were being framed to save ‘key people’.