Senior leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s exit from the Congress may not have come as a surprise to many as more party leaders are likely to leave the party in the coming days.
Moreover, Rita is not the first MLA to leave the Congress in recent months. Out of 29 MLAs who won on party’s ticket in 2012 assembly elections, nine (including Joshi) have already left the party. The Congress’ effective strength has already come down to 20 and may go down further in the state assembly if more MLAs leave the party in coming days. There are already growing feeling within the party for a rework of its strategy and for an introspection immediately to save itself from the threat of being thrown out of the race even before contesting the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Those who may quit the party include two sitting MLAs Vivek Singh and Pankaj Malik. Though both of them have strongly denied any such move, sources in the party say they along with other legislators have reasons to get upset with prevailing state of affairs in the state party. Take the case of Joshi, who had risen to nationwide prominence after her house was set on fire for her remarks against BSP chief Mayawati. Rita was thereafter known as a firebrand leader, both in and outside the Congress. Her exit has come at a point when the party is taking out ‘Rahul Sandesh Yatras’ to consolidate gains from party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s recently concluded Deoria-Delhi Kisan Yatra.
Joshi has given surgical strikes as the main reason for quitting the Congress. But the reasons for exit are more linked to her ‘growing isolation’ in the party than the Congress leadership’s stance on surgical strike. Joshi had been feeling isolated in the party ever since her brother and former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna had joined the BJP. Sources said the party leadership’s decision to project former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had come as a jolt to her. Joshi, however, continued to make adjustments despite she being kept away from the party backed Brahmin conventions that were being organized to woo the Brahmins.
Interestingly, Rita’s decision to join the BJP came when the party was about to serve a notice on her for her silence on the rumours of her joining the BJP.
The party had to earlier expel its six MLAs for cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections. Those who had cross-voted included party’s MLA from Tiloi assembly segment of Amethi Mohamamd Muslim, who was once considered close to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
“When Muslim got signals of not being repeated in view of complaints against him, he decided to cross-vote and leave Congress,” said a party leader adding, “Joshi and Muslim had come to the Congress from the Samajwadi Party. The Congress should now take lessons from these exits and begin rewarding loyalists instead of banking on those whose loyalties always remain under question.”