This round is going to be ugly between the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and the Congress.
The BSP government of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday arrested state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi for her alleged derogatory remarks against Chief Minister Mayawati and booked her under a law related to prevention of atrocities against Dalits.
Joshi, at a rally in Moradabad on Wednesday, allegedly mocked the state director general of police for flying down to Dalit rape victims and giving them compensation.
Joshi said the state government’s compensation was a farce and won’t bring justice to rape victims. She allegedly offered to pay Mayawati Rs 1 crore if she suffered the same trauma.
Joshi was arrested in Ghaziabad on Thursday morning and around the same time her house in Lucknow was set ablaze by a mob of alleged BSP workers.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi distanced herself from Joshi's remarks and expressed her "deep pain and anguish" at the events.
Joshi offered to apologise but called the attack on her house "state-sponsored terrorism". The Congress was cautious but called the torching of her house was "state-sponsored vandalism”.
Mayawati alleged a Congress conspiracy to slander her. "The manner in which Sonia Gandhi has failed to chastise Joshi and has chosen to remain silent arouses suspicion that whatever this woman did was on the direction of the Congress high command," she alleged.
Has Mayawati been wronged? CNN-IBN’s Sagarika Ghose asked this on Face The Nation to Congress spokesperson and MP Manish Tewari, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BSP national general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, and Kancha Ilaiah, scholar and Dalit rights activist.
Was Joshi’s statement anti-Dalit or anti-woman? Ilaiah believed Joshi was hinting at Mayawati’s “background” when she made her controversial statement. “If Joshi were to speak in Delhi would she have made such a statement against Sheila Dikshit. I don’t think she would have made such a statement,” said Ilaiah.
Rudy said the allegations and accusations between the BSP and the Congress confirmed the worst image of politicians. “What happens because of this is that the stock of the political class comes down. Whether it is people from my party or the Congress everybody is heading for a situation where you want to make remarks which are below the belt,” he said.
“It is a situation which confirms our image in people’s eyes across the country and it time for political parties to introspect where are we heading for.”
Mishra alleged the attack on Joshi’s house was a Congress conspiracy to divert attention from what she had said. The BSP leader claimed some members of the mob had fled to a Congress office after torching her house.
Tewari said Joshi and the Congress had expressed “regret” for her statement and the party had clarified it didn’t want the “political discourse to be vitiated”. But the BSP was not interested in settling the controversy, he alleged.
“I do not hear the same thing coming out of the BSP. He (Mishra) is justifying it (torching of Joshi’s house) by saying that the Congress has done it. I didn’t know Mr Mishra is an excellent writer of conspiracy theories,” said Tewari.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Mahendra Singh Tikait made controversial remarks against Mayawati in March 2008. He apologised when threatened with arrest.
Is the political stake too high for Mayawati to accept Joshi’s regret. Does the Congress’ performance in the Lok Sabha elections make it difficult for the BSP to make peace with the party?
Mishra rejected any political motive for Joshi’s arrest and claimed the Congress had not done well in the elections. “They (Congress) have lost their deposits in 50 seats. They have a segregation policy and an anti-Dalit campaign in the state which now has targeted the Chief Minister.
“But we don’t do such politics. If any illegal action is done against any person--Dalit or otherwise--the same action will be taken,” said Misra.
Is the Congress too out make political gains out of Joshi’s arrest and the attack on her house? “There is no politics. The Uttar Pradesh Congress expresses regret for her statement but within one hour of her arrest her house is burnt down,” said Tewari.
Will the Congress sack Joshi for her statement and prove that it genuinely regrets it. “She is in jail and when she comes out the party will talk to her and then take whatever logical action it considers appropriate,” he said.
Mayawati’s image in UP is that of a politician who enforces the law and fights crime. Has that image taken a beating because of Joshi’s burnt house?.
No, insisted Mishra. “If law and order hadn’t been in control today you would have seen hundreds of incidents in UP. It is only because of her that BSP cadres were under control,” he said. “Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s arrest was not an overreaction by the state government--the law has taken its own course.”
SMS poll on Has Mayawati been wronged? Yes: 55 per cent and No: 45 per cent.