MUMBAI: A red-faced Congress was left scrambling for cover after its national spokesperson and media cell convenor Priyanka Chaturvedi, who has a strong presence on social media, joined Shiv Sena within hours of tendering her resignation on Friday.
Chaturvedi's resignation came days after her public criticism of Congress for reinstating party workers who were suspended after they allegedly misbehaved with her in Mathura in September last year.
Her departure is a blow as she has been a prominent social media presence for Congress for several years and has often been in bitter battles with BJP.
In a letter to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Chaturvedi said, "In the last few weeks, certain things have convinced me that my services are not valued in the organisation and that I have reached the end of the road. At the same time, I also feel that more time that I spend in the organisation will be at the cost of my own self-respect and dignity."
Her departure from Congress saw BJP spokespersons like Nupur Sharma saying it was just deserts for her targeting of women BJP supporters. However, her joining Sena will remove a persistent anti-BJP voice from the opposition camp.
Asked about the shift to the Sena, whose ideology is often described as "communal", Chaturvedi said, "As a Mumbaikar, I was attached to the party since my childhood. Every person connected to Mumbai-Maharashtra has some feelings towards the Sena. Though I am from Mathura, Mumbai is my karmabhoomi."
She denied her actions were the result of being denied a Lok Sabha ticket and raised the issue of harassment.
"What saddens me is that despite safety, dignity, empowerment of women being promoted by the party, the same is not reflected in the action of some members of the party. A serious incident and misbehaviour against me by certain party members while I was on official duty for the party has been ignored under the guise of all hands needed for election," she said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala sought to play down the departure and said it was not unusual for people to "look for career progression". Seeking to deflect the blame from the top Congress leadership, Surjewala also said Chaturvedi's departure was a "reflection on my leadership", adding that queries about why errant functionaries were reinstated should be put to AICC general secretary in-charge of west UP Jyotiraditya Scindia. The UP Congress order reinstating the accused persons was issued following Scindia's sanction.
Chaturvedi soon joined Shiv Sena, flanked by Uddhav Thackeray, Sena minister Subhash Desai and Aaditya Thackeray at the Thackerays' Matoshree residence in Bandra. She said she joined the party without any conditions or expectations, but a Sena functionary said she may be sent to the Rajya Sabha in future.
She also accepted that she was seeking a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls but maintained that denial of ticket was not the reason why she was quitting. "When we talk about women's safety and empowerment, we have to live by that, within the house and outside," she said, denying that she was seeking a ticket from Mathura.
In Video: Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi resigns from party Making sense of 2019 #ElectionswithtimesView Full Coverage
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