New Delhi: In a jolt to Congress in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, senior party leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Thursday joined BJP and attacked Rahul Gandhi over the way he was running the party and his reaction to the army’s surgical strikes.
67-year-old Joshi, daughter late Congress veteran Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, over whom there has been speculation of deserting Congress, joined BJP in the presence of party president Amit Shah at the party headquarters here.
A former UPCC president who resigned as a Congress MLA today, said there is no alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP.
Joshi, who was said to be unhappy with the Congress leadership over projection of Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial face in Uttar Pradesh, rued the present state of affairs in the party, alleging that it is in such a bad shape that it has contracted out its working to strategist Prashant Kishore.
Slamming Rahul for his ‘dalali’ barb at Modi over the surgical strikes, Joshi said she has been disheartened by the events which happened in the last few days.
“India is fighting terrorism and the Modi government has given the army a free hand. Besides valour of the army, the government’s strong leadership was also behind the surgical strikes.”
“Along with the nation, I too was happy. The whole world accepted India’s arguments behind the strikes. Congress, however, behaved like a small party and went on to question it. The whole nation was upset with a phrase like ‘khoon like dalali’,” she said attacking Gandhi.
His remarks gave Pakistan an opportunity to question surgical strikes, she said, adding that political differences over national interest were not good.
Noting that she had spent 24 years out of 27 years of her political career in Congress and only 10 months in Samajwadi Party, she said, “The decision to quit Congress was not easy. However, I took it in the interest of the nation and the state (UP).”
Her joining BJP is expected to give a boost to the party’s efforts to consolidate Brahmin voters as it looks to capture power in the state following a gap of over 15 years.
The assembly polls in UP are due early next year. Ruling Samajwadi Parry and BSP have been in the power by turn all this while.
Sharing her disillusionment with Congress, Joshi said it has made an “outsider” like Kishore “election director” and senior leaders like her were being told that how much and when they have to speak.
The nation is not willing to accept Rahul’s leadership, she said, claiming that several senior Congress leaders are upset with him.
While Congress chief Sonia Gandhi understands leadership and interacts with different people, Rahul Gandhi is not taken seriously, she said.
Praising Modi and Shah’s leadership, she said there is no alternative to them. After meeting Shah, she realised that BJP had no hidden agenda, she said.
Her brother and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna Joshi had also quit Congress and joined BJP a few months back.
She accused SP of destroying Uttar Pradesh and that liquor, mining and land mafia are active in the state while there is no law and order.
She said it is necessary to rid the state of misgovernance of SP and BSP, both of which have injected “poison of casteism” into the state politics. She said she will work overtime to help BJP to come to power.
Meanwhile, Congress termed Rita Bahuguna’s exit as betrayal and accused BJP of amassing an ‘army of traitors’.
“Rita Bahuguna’s family has history of switching sides,” said Congress leader Raj Babbar.
During 2014 Lok Sabha polls, which BJP had swept in the state winning 71 of 80 seats, the caste barriers were broken, she claimed, adding that Congress did not live up to the expectations.