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'Proud to set ablaze Joshi's house'

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
July 22, 2009 21:05 IST
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Ruling Bahujan Samaj Party leadership on Wednesday expressed pride in setting ablaze state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi's house in retaliation to her alleged derogatory remarks against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

This was widely visible in the protest demonstrations organised at Mayawati's behest in different parts of the state to mark was termed as "day of shame."

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Even as the BSP supremo's call surprisingly elicited feeble response from her own ranks, it was interesting to find the protest demonstrations being led in Lucknow and in Bhikapur, Faizabad by the two key accused in the attack and arson at Joshi's residence.

In Moradabad, where Joshi had allegedly uttered the objectionable remarks, BSP activists were disappointed as Mayawati abandoned her plan to address the protest rally there.

The Lucknow protest which drew barely 1,000 --1,500 BSP crowd was led by Intezar Abdi 'Bobby', who, within 48 hours of being named as an accused, was rewarded with chairmanship of a public undertaking, carrying a minister's rank and perquisites.

Similarly, it was ruling party's Bhikapur MLA Jitendra Singh 'Babloo,' who spearheaded the anti-Congress protests in his constituency.

Even as both these BSP activists denied their involvement in the attack on Joshi's house, their family members as well as party colleagues proudly declared them as "heroes."

BSP MLA Babloo's father Iksha Ram told a popular TV channel in Bhikapur, "Even if my son were to indulge in arson for the sake of upholding the honour of our Behenji (Mayawati), I would have no regrets."

Yet another Faizabad based BSP leader Awadhesh Pande declared, "It should be considered a matter of pride for the party to have its activists burning down houses of those who have the cheek to use intemperate language against our party leader."

He went on to add, "If Babloo had actually been involved with the burning of the house, he would have done his father proud."

Both Babloo and Abdi however went about giving themselves clean chits. Referring to TV visuals showing him leading the arson on July 15, Babloo pleads, "The channel has faked my visuals using animation tricks."

Abdi told the protest gathering outside the Lucknow collectorate, "I have nothing to do with the arson, but sure enough I will do anything in support of my leader Behenji."

He was warmly hugged by defeated BSP Lucknow Lok Sabha nominee Akhilesh Das, who also failed to moblise any impressive crowd at the demonstration.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow