Rita Bahuguna Joshi isn't a big loss for Congress but will BJP gain much from her?

Is Rita Bahuguna Joshi a big catch for the BJP? Not many familiar with Uttar Pradesh politics would say she is. Despite her rather impressive CV — daughter of former chief minister late Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna; state Congress president from 2007-2012; a long stint as president of All India Mahila Congress; the party’s only prominent Brahmin face etc — she is hardly considered a leader of great substance in a state full of political heavyweights.

Perhaps it had to do a lot with the party she belonged to. All her sincere efforts could not have lifted the down in the dumps Congress from being the number four party in the politically critical state. Perhaps it had to do with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who never allowed her the free hand she wanted to revive the party. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that the real political base of the Bahuguna family remained in Uttarakhand; in a divided UP the chances of her success was limited. Whatever the reason, despite the length of her career she never elevated herself to the club of political biggies.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi and BJP chief Amit Shah addressing the press conference. CNN-News18

Rita Bahuguna Joshi and BJP chief Amit Shah addressing the press conference. CNN-News18

That is the reason the Congress had to import Sheila Dikshit from Delhi when it decided to focus on Brahmin votes. Rita was a Brahmin face alright but she did not pack the punch. In fact, Dikshit’s entry in the scene is believed to have pushed her to a position of irrelevance in the party, one of the reasons she decided to quit. Her switching loyalty may not be a big loss to the Congress or a big advantage for the BJP in electoral terms in the poll-bound state. But in the election season, perception matters more than substance. Her exit would send out the impression that things are going bad for the Congress and the BJP is the natural destination for leaders looking for political longevity.

Her parting kick was sharp and clever. Like several leaders of the Congress who have left the party, she was guarded in her criticism of party president Sonia Gandhi and aggressive on Rahul. Since she was joining the BJP what’s better than raking up the “khoon ki dalali’ remark of the Congress vice-president. Coming from a leader who has served the party for more than two decades, it would carry certain heft during campaigning. It would also provide her a halo of patriotism, and maybe an assembly ticket of her choice. The BJP is likely to use her as a counterweight to Sheila Dikshit in its bid to blunt the Brahmin initiative of the Congress.

Rita, sources say, did not have a comfortable relationship with Prashant Kishor, the Congress’s poll strategist. In fact, several leaders of the old guard are unhappy with the prominence given to Kishor by Rahul Gandhi. She said party’s election strategy being handed over to such managers reflected poorly on the leadership of the party. She also said old party hands with grassroots connect were being ignored in the party’s election strategy. It is another matter that such leaders have failed to revive the party and deliver in elections despite being given a long rope by the leadership.

A few other leaders may follow her to the BJP, but it makes little sense how the party is going to benefit from deadwood of a decaying Congress. As a psychological blow, it might hurt Congress a bit but it may also allow space for it to groom new leaders with more energy. It won’t miss Rita Bahuguna Joshi much.

Updated Date: Oct 20, 2016 19:53 PM

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