Cong suffers loss of face in UP as Rita Bahuguna leaves

Rajat Kain

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressing people during an election rally. Photo - PTI

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressing people during an election rally.
Photo – PTI

Senior Congress leader and erstwhile chief of its Uttar Pradesh unit Rita Bahuguna Joshi has joined BJP. Her move has come just few months ahead of the assembly polls due in the state. Few month ago, her brother and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had left Congress party to join the BJP, triggering trouble for the Harish Rawat government.

Though speculations were rife for the last few days, the former one-time MLA from UP joined the BJP today in presence of her new party chief Amit Shah.

“Today I have resigned from Congress to join BJP… The decision was tough but i felt that Congress party has lost its reputation,” she said lauding BJP’s top leadership and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Developments in recent past have left me numb,” she added while criticising Congress for its reaction on surgical strikes. She was also critical of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s controversial remarks on surgical strikes.

Daughter of former Chief Minister of UP and tall Congress leader late Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, Ms Joshi’s departure from the Congress is seen by some quarters as a set-back just ahead of crucial UP assembly polls.

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Vice President Rahul Gandhi, the party's chief ministerial face in UP, Sheila Dikshit and state unit chief Raj Babbar flag off a three-day bus yatra, "27 saal, UP behaal" in the party headquarters in New Delhi, July 23, 2016. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Vice President Rahul Gandhi, the party’s chief ministerial face in UP, Sheila Dikshit and state unit chief Raj Babbar flag off a three-day bus yatra, “27 saal, UP behaal” in the party headquarters in New Delhi, July 23, 2016.
Photo – PTI

67-year-old Bahuguna, currently an MLA from Lucknow Cantonment, was said to be unhappy with the Congress leadership over projection of former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit as the party’s chief ministerial face. Political circles were also abuzz about her increasing marginalisation in the party apparatus ever since Raj Babbar — Rahul Gandhi’s choice — was made party’s UP unit chief.

Some political analysts have also opined that with her entry in the party fold, BJP may have caused a dent to Congress’ strategy aimed at consolidating the Brahmin votes.

Prashant Kishore, the poll strategist working with Congress for the UP polls, is building the party’s campaign around getting the Brahmin and Upper caste votes to reinvigorate its moribund position in the state.

FILE: File phot of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi campaigning with Raita Bahuguna Joshi in UP.  Photo - PTI

FILE: File phot of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi campaigning with Raita Bahuguna Joshi in UP.
Photo – PTI

However, it needs to be underlined that Rita Bahuguna Joshi holds a modest electoral record losing Lok Sabha elections both the times she contested. On both occasions, she was trounced by the BJP candidates — by current Home minister Rajnath Singh in 2014 and senior BJP leader Lalji Tondon in 2009.

Though, as Congress party’s UP unit chief in 2012 she was she was able to win her assembly seat from Lucknow Cantonment, defeating her BJP rival Suresh Chandra Tiwari with the margin of over 20 thousand votes, Congress party performed dismally, only cobbling 28 seats in the strong 403-member UP legislative assembly.

Prior to her contesting for assembly and Lok Sabha polls, Rita Bahuguna Joshi had also held the post of mayor of Allahabad from 1995-2000 besides some organisational level positions in the Congress party.

Ms Joshi now faces a tough fight to defend her seat in the upcoming assembly polls with Samajwadi Party announcing Aparna Yadav, daughter-in-law of its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, as its candidate for the Lucknow Cantt seat.