Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Put an end to tales of betrayal

Pankaj Sharma
24 October 2016 

Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s decision to join the BJP is symbolic of the ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’.

Leaving a political party for ideological reasons is one thing. But defecting to a rival party for selfish motives must be denounced in strongest possible words. Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s decision to resign from the Congress party and join the BJP has no other shameless parallel.

Until the other day, she was heard severely criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for unnecessarily publicising the surgical strikes on television channels. After joining the BJP, however, she has dramatically changed her tune. "India is fighting terrorism, and the Modi government has given the army a free hand," she said. "Besides valour of the military, the government's strong leadership was also behind the surgical strikes." It was all praises for the Congress leadership till the very moment she decided to defect. 

It is not a revolt based on principles. It is a story of betrayal by three generations. Rita Bahuguna’s father Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna had betrayed Indira Gandhi four decades ago. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had included him in her government as Minister of State for Communications in 1971 and got him elected as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh two years later. But as Chief Minister, Hemvati made it a habit of ignoring the party hierarchy. Matters came to a head in 1975 when Indira Gandhi asked him to step down. Finally, in 1977, when Jagjivan Ram quit the Congress overnight and formed his party, Congress for Democracy (CFD), Bahuguna joined him and announced: “Himalaya can break but cannot bow." Nandini Satpathi was another leader who left Congress and joined the CFD.

Hemvati Nandan enjoyed the fruits of power during the 18-month reign of the Janata Party government. But when the weak coalition government collapsed, he rejoined the Congress by cozying up to Sanjay Gandhi. He met the Gandhi scion discreetly a few times and soon enough the headline across newspapers read: “Bhanja (nephew) has placated Mama (uncle)”. Hemvati was appointed the secretary-general of the party and given the ticket to contest Lok Sabha elections in 1980 from Garhwal. But after winning his seat, Mama asked for a particular ministry in the government. When the party decided not to fulfill his wishes, he left the Bhanja once again. When general elections were held after Indira Gandhi’s assignation in 1984, Bahuguna chose to contest for the Allahabad Lok Sabha seat as a Lok Dal candidate. He lost rather badly to Congress candidate Amitabh Bachchan by more than 1.87 lakh votes.

Let's move on to Hemvati’s eldest son, Vijay Bahuguna. He began his career as an advocate in the Allahabad High Court. He later served as a judge in the Allahabad High Court and Bombay High Court. In 2002, he was appointed the vice-chairman of the Uttarakhand Planning Commission. Two years later, he was given a Lok Sabha ticket by the Congress party. He served as a Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha till 2012, when he manipulated his way into the Chief Minister's office in Uttarakhand. Vijay Bahuguna left no stone unturned to manipulate the party's internal politics and managed Lok Sabha candidature for his son Saket twice from Tehri constituency. Saket lost heavily in 2012 and 2014. As Chief Minister, Vijay Bahuguna miserably failed to bring succour to the state after the devastating floods of 2013. By the time Bahuguna found his feet, he was replaced by Harish Rawat ahead of the 2014 general elections. After instigating a revolt within the party's state unit, Bahuguna decided to join the BJP.

Till Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna’s death in 1989, his daughter Rita was a non-entity in politics. She is now 67 years old and has completed a full circle of switching parties. She had left the Congress in 1995 when the Samajwadi Party offered her the position of Mayor of Allahabad. She enjoyed her office till 2000 when she came back into the Congress fold. In 2003, she was made the president of the Mahila Congress. Finally, in 2007, the veteran politician was sent to UP, as party president--a position she held for five years till 2012. The former Congress politician successfully contested the Assembly elections in 2012.

Rita wanted to be projected as Congress party’s Chief Ministerial candidate in the forthcoming UP Assembly election, failing which she discreetly began exploring her future in other parties. She first held discreet meetings with Samajwadi Party leaders. When she did not get much response, she joined the BJP on an assurance that she would be its candidate from her present constituency in the next Assembly election. 

Some prominent leaders have left the Congress to join the BJP or other parties in recent times. Some notable names are Jayanti Natrajan, G.K. Vasan, D. Purandeshwari, Krishna Tirath, Jagmeet Singh Brar, Mangat Ram Sharma, Ajit Jogi, Satpal Maharaj, Hemant Biswa Sharma, Chowdhary Birendra Singh, and Rao Indrajit Singh. Most of them are in political oblivion. I am sure that the defectors always have something defective in them. They defect any which way when the weather is not fair. It is high time that the Congress tightly shuts its doors to “Aaya Rams-Gaya Rams”.

(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views expressed are personal.)

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