Special Correspondent

“Party holds all women in the highest esteem and does not believe in crossing the limits of sobriety”

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Thursday disassociated itself from the derogatory remarks made by its Uttar Pradesh unit president Rita Bahuguna Joshi against Chief Minister Mayawati, after the issue disrupted the entire day’s proceedings in Parliament. However, the Congress has not initiated disciplinary action against Ms. Joshi, with party leaders stating she would have to be heard out first.

Taking a dig at the compensation being doled out to rape victims in Uttar Pradesh, Ms. Joshi had said: “Main kehti hoon phaink dain Mayawati ke moonh par aur kah dai ho jayai tera balaatkar toh mein ek karod rupayae doongee (I say throw the money on Mayawati’s face and say if you are raped, I will give you Rs. 1 crore).”

Ms. Joshi’s remarks and her arrest led to successive adjournments in both Houses as the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party members sparred with each other. Though the Congress far outnumbered the BSP, the latter found ready support in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Later in the day, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi issued a statement on behalf of the All India Congress Committee expressing regret at the personal references made to Ms. Mayawati in the PCC president’s statement. “The Congress holds all women in the highest esteem and does not believe in crossing the limits of sobriety even in the most provocative of circumstances.”

The Congress also maintained that the party stood for the highest standards in public debate on issues that touched the people. “The values bequeathed to it [the Congress] by its founders are explicit in the civilised engagement it has traditionally had with political adversaries no matter which party they belong to.”

At the same time, the Congress statement said the U.P. government should effectively address the issue of atrocities against women — particularly those belonging to the weaker sections. Referring to the attack on Ms. Joshi’s house, the Congress noted: “The credibility and fairness of the Mayawati regime would also be on test in the way it deals with arsonists.”

The Congress statement was preceded by efforts by party leaders to defend Ms. Joshi, pointing out that she had apologised and the Mayawati government was misusing its power by arresting her. Congress leader Jagdambika Pal said law and order had broken down in the State and Ms. Mayawati had no moral right to continue in office.

BJP demands apology

Meanwhile, the BJP demanded an apology from the Congress leadership. Describing Ms. Joshi’s remarks as “totally unacceptable,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said: “There is no room for two points of view on her comment.”

The Samajwadi Party described the war of words between the Congress and the BSP as “shadow-boxing,” adding if Ms. Mayawati was so upset, she should withdraw support to the UPA government.

Related links:

  • U.P. Congress chief arrested for remarks against Mayawati
  • Editorial: The violence of words
  • Sonia regrets remarks
  • Monetary compensation for victims of rape hurts Dalits' pride, says Mayawati