SPECULATION RAGED on Monday over the possibility of former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi — a prominent Brahmin face of the party — joining BJP ahead of the Assembly polls in the state early next year.
Joshi, who had served as party UP president between 2007-2012, was reportedly unhappy with “being sidelined” in the party. Joshi not being available to the media for the last few days has only added fuel to the fire.
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Her husband, P C Joshi — also a Congress leader — however, said: “These are rumours with no basis. She is in Delhi and is suffering from a severe throat infection and is thus unable to speak to anyone.”
When contacted, a senior party leader on condition of anonymity said: “While no one can speak on her behalf, but the fact is that she was feeling sidelined for obvious reasons. While she was the face of UP elections in 2012, during the recent Kisan Yatra of Rahul Gandhi, she could not join the campaign at many places and had to return.
Citing a recent instance, he added, “The Congress vice-president regularly spoke to prominent leaders during his yatra. But in Lucknow, Rita Bahuguna Joshi found a place in the third vehicle of his fleet despite being not only the local MLA but also the former state president.”
Sources said Joshi had communicated her commitment towards the party to Congress president Sonia Gandhi soon after her elder brother Vijay Bahuguna, former Uttarakhand chief minister, defected to the BJP. She, however, failed to get win the trust of the senior leadership, said a source.
Joshi is said to be unhappy with the Congress leadership over projection of Sheila Dikshit as the party’s chief ministerial face and feels increasingly marginalised since Raj Babbar was made the UP party chief. She reportedly believes she had better credentials to be projected as a Brahmin chief ministerial face than Dikshit.
The speculation was triggered by reports that Joshi had a meeting with a BJP leader, said to be party chief Amit Shah, recently. “She has not denied it (meeting with Amit Shah),” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity. Sources in BJP said there have been talks between Joshi and its leaders. A decision on her joining the party can be taken soon, they added. Her joining the BJP will be a shot in its arm as it will help the saffron party consolidate Brahmin votes.
When asked, Satya Dev Tripathi, Chairman of UP Congress communication department, said: “We have no information in this regard.” Daughter of former UP CM Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, 67-year-old Joshi was associated with SP during her early political career. But she later joined Congress and went on to become the president of All India Mahila Congress. She enjoyed the confidence of Sonia Gandhi and was made the UP state president in 2007.
A professor of medieval and modern history at University of Allahabad, Joshi had come into limelight when she was detained in 2009 for allegedly using derogatory words against then UP chief minister Mayawati. She even faced the ire of BSP workers who allegedly torched her house in Lucknow the same night.
She contested Lok Sabha elections twice but lost. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress had fielded her against Rajnath Singh from Lucknow.