19 January 2020 10:23 AM

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MEHRU JAFFER | 24 OCTOBER, 2016

Rita Bahuguna Falls Between The Congress Rock and the BJP Hard Place


LUCKNOW: It is no surprise that Rita Bahuguna Joshi, well known Lucknow politician quit the Congress Party after over two decades of being dictated by the party high command in Delhi.

Miffed at being humbled by the party high command in Delhi that imposed Bombay based Haryanvi Raj Babbar as the Uttar Pradesh State Congress president, and the elderly Sheila Dixit as the face for the chief minister hopeful, Joshi clearly felt the need to leave the party she had headed for a long while.

Both these outsiders come to Lucknow by day and are gone by night. Babbar and Dikshit do not even have a postal address in the state. The voters don't like their political leaders to be living elsewhere, and prefer those who are accessible.

Joshi at least does not suffer from this drawback.The doors of her home are always open to people who come to see her from different corners of the state with the endless problems they face, as citizens of this poor, backward state.

But what is surprising about her dal badal is that she chose to cross over to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For the BJP believes in exactly the opposite ideology to the kind of politics that Rita has struggled to practice in the past. How will she survive right wing politics that propagates that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, and even natural and desirable in life?

How will Joshi mix and match the inclusive, progressive legacy of her father with the macho nationalists she has chosen now as her new political partners?

Quitting the Congress Party is nothing new. This has happened before when Congress members have left the party to join another party, or to found a new political party. The difference is that most Congress members in the past may have changed parties but seldom their ideology and commitment to wiping out poverty and social injustice in society.

It was her father HN Bahuguna's deep concern for the future of democracy, the downtrodden and the minorities that made him quit the Congress Party in the 1970s. It was his extreme popularity as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in the same decade that threatened Indira Gandhi and made her determined to ruin his political career by forcing him to resign.

Incidentally it was my father, Syed Muhammad Jaffar, a member of the state legislative council (MLC) then, who was picked by Indira Gandhi to play the thorn by the side of Bahuguna.As leader of dissidents in Uttar Pradesh against Bahuguna, MLC Jaffar's mandate was to make Bahuguna's life difficult as chief minister and to get him to quit from government. And eventually Bahuguna did quit.

On hindsight it is clear that even as long ago as then, the Indian National Congress Party was slyly but surely shedding its ideals of democracy, socialism and secularism. It was already attracted to opportunism, greed and to the politics of power.

But even after being humiliated by the party leadership what did father Bahuguna do? He founded a Democratic Socialist Party in an effort to strengthen the democratic, socialist and secular fabric of the country. His ideology never changed although his political party did.

Even when he joined the Lok Dal, he left no stone unturned to bring like minded politicians to agree to a common program for the good of the poor of this country.That no politician of that time came forth to join hands with Bahuguna for long is another story.

Bahuguna may have been kicked around by the Congress Party but he never retired from a war that raged in his head against social injustice and inequality amongst the citizens of this country.

Now what does the daughter of this illustrious Congressman do when she is similarly insulted? She conveniently does a right turn in anticipation of a win in the coming elections in Uttar Pradesh and is lured into a kind of politics that is questionable even as it enjoys power in the country these days. Perhaps it is also the promise of chair of the next chief minister in Uttar Pradesh that makes Rita join the right wing BJP?

But knowing the BJP the party will surely use her to break, defeat and to demoralise an already colourless Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh but never, ever give her a trusted top job like that of chief minister.For Rita Bahuguna is no Smriti Irani.

However to compare Rita Bahuguna Joshi to her late father who was a charismatic politician is also unfair. She is hardworking but she is not a star politician.

I will be surprised and happy for her if she is able to win her own seat for the BJP in the coming elections in Uttar Pradesh.

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