I am very clear that derogatory remarks against anyone, particularly a lady, are totally unacceptable, says Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
Rita Bahuguna Joshi, 67, sent shockwaves when she quit the Congress to join the BJP in October in Uttar Pradesh. Daughter of former chief minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, she is articulate and takes issues and opponents head-on. Her remarks against Mayawati after her house in Lucknow was burnt down by BSP supporters led to her being jailed. While campaigning in Lucknow Cantt — this time as a BJP candidate — she spoke to Amita Verma about the challenges before her.
After spending decades in the Congress and a stint in the Samajwadi Party, how does it feel to be in the BJP now?
The difference has not yet sunk in. Soon after I joined the BJP, the party got into the election mode and so did I. We are determined to oust corrupt regional parties from Uttar Pradesh and we are focusing on this. I have been given the opportunity to connect with the party workers through meetings. BJP workers, in a sense, are disciplined enough to follow decisions taken by the leaders.
There is a great deal of resentment among BJP workers over tickets given to those who recently joined the party. How are you coping with this?
There are some shortcomings in our campaign, but we will overcome them soon. If you take party workers into confidence, the initial resistance melts away. For the BJP workers, getting our government in place is more important and that is what we are all working towards. The resentment is natural when everyone aspires for a ticket, but this will die down in a few days.
Besides, I was elected from the constituency in 2012 and have huge backing of my own workers, who left the Congress with me. This is also a big advantage for me.
What are the issues you are focusing on?
The state is obviously the main issue and the corruption during the SP and BSP governments is largely responsible for the plight of Uttar Pradesh. The leaders of regional parties have amassed wealth for themselves, promoted their families, but have conveniently forgotten the people who elected them to power.
Is demonetisation a major issue in your constituency?
Surprisingly, in the urban areas, demonetisation has had a positive impact. People do not deny having faced problems but they are now convinced that this will put a strong curb on black money. The people trust Prime Minister Narendra Modi and are aware that he is working selflessly for the country.
You are pitted against Aparna Yadav (from the SP), younger daughter-in-law of Mulayam Singh Yadav. She has launched an aggressive campaign accusing you of not doing any work in the constituency.
Her connectivity with the constituency is just a few months old and her only USP is that she belongs to the ruling family. She is not a politician, but a social worker. The Lucknow Cantt constituency has never elected a Samajwadi Party candidate. The Samajwadi Party, too, has never done any development for the area. As a legislator in the past five years, I have brought funds for water supply, Rs 400 crore to upgrade the sewage system and a 80-bed hospital.
You have been in the SP and then the Congress. What is your take on the new alliance between these two parties?
The fact that they have forged an alliance shows that they are doubtful of their own individual performances in the elections.
The SP and the Congress have accepted that they are coming together to stop the BJP, which implies that they have already conceded defeat and are desperate about their own survival.
The SP, which is a ruling party, has given up 105 seats to the Congress and need I say anything more about SP’s self-confidence? The alliance, however, has turned the UP elections into a three-cornered contest.
You were the only BJP leader who recently objected to Vinay Katiyar’s remarks on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
I am very clear that derogatory remarks against anyone, particularly a lady, are totally unacceptable. In politics, we must maintain some decorum and dignity. Such sexist remarks should be condemned and one should rise above political lines on such issues. Therefore, I publicly criticised the remark.