Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi is set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coming days.
Joshi, the Congress’ Brahmin face and daughter of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, is said to be upset that her party projected former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial face for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.
Joshi had led the Congress in the 2012 assembly polls in UP. The Congress, after its success in UP in 2009 Lok Sabha elections where it had surprised many by winning 21 of the 80 seats, performed poorly in the 2012 assembly elections. It won a mere 28 of the 403 seats despite extensive campaigning by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
Earlier this year, Vijay Bahuguna, who is Joshi’s brother, had split the Congress in Uttarakhand to lead his splinter group of nine legislators out of the party. It had led to the imposition of the President’s Rule in the state. Vijay Bahuguna later joined the BJP. Vijay Bahuguna was elected the chief minister of Uttarakhand after Congress won the assembly polls in the state in 2012, but was upset after he was asked to quit and the central leadership handed the reins to Harish Rawat. Along with UP, assembly polls are also due in Uttarakhand.
Joshi is currently a legislator from the Lucknow Cantt assembly seat, and would have faced a difficult electoral contest with Samajwadi Party set to field party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav there.
It remains to be seen if Joshi’s walking out of the Congress would dent the party’s outreach to the Brahmins of Uttar Pradesh. Brahmins in UP comprise a bit over 10 per cent of the electorate. The Congress strategy is to wean away some of BJP’s upper caste support base in the state by projecting Dikshit, daughter-in-law of Congress stalwart of 1960s and 70s Umashankar Dikshit.
Joshi had started her political career as a member of the Samajwadi Party, but had later joined the Congress. In the last couple of months, several Bahujan Samaj Party leaders have joined the BJP, including its Brahmin leader Brijesh Pathak.