Veteran politician Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Thursday bid adieu to the Congress party and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls scheduled to be held next year. Addressing a packed press conference, she said it was not an easy decision to quit the grand old party, but it had to be taken in the best interests of the country.

Rita was presented with a bouquet by BJP president Amit Shah while photographs were clicked to capture the new innings that she has begun. She went on to attack Rahul Gandhi, the second in command of her former party, who she had vociferously defended on several occasions in the past.

“His leadership is not acceptable not just to Uttar Pradesh but to the entire nation. Even senior leaders of the state are angry,” she said.

In her 27-year-long political career, Rita has held prominent positions in the state Congress. Despite having contested Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully twice, her exit may likely be seen as severe blow to the Congress, which is already on a downward spiral.

She has been no stranger to controversies. Some of her comments have often placed her and the Congress on a sticky wicket in the past.

Rape barb against Mayawati: In 2009, she had sparked a fierce controversy with her remarks against the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. While criticising the latter’s Rs 25,000 compensation to Dalit rape victims, she retorted, “Will Mayawati settle for a compensation of Rs 1 crore if she were to suffer the indignity herself?” The remark had triggered major outrage after which she had to spent 14 days in judicial custody.

Hails Rahul, only to be snubbed: Accompanying Congress scion Rahul Gandhi for a rally in Sitapur, Rita claimed that he forced the pilot of the chopper in which they were travelling, to land despite zero visibility. According to the leader, Rahul took such a step only because of his intention to serve the people. However, her comments backfired when he in a press conference not only refuted any such incident but also snubbed the then state party chief saying that she was neither a pilot nor a weather expert.

Another attack on Mayawati: Joshi stirred another controversy in 2010, when she made remarks on the statues constructed by the then UP CM Mayawati across the state. While mocking the BSP chief’s project, she had said that the statues were so dark that you can’t even see the ears and the nose.

Undying loyalty to Rahul: After the Congress failed in its Mission 2012 to return to power in Uttar Pradesh, numerous questions were raised on Rahul Gandhi leadership qualities. Contrary to her statements on Thursday, Rita had rushed out in support of the Gandhi scion. She said the party had failed to convert the ‘wonderful atmosphere’ created by him into votes.

Calls Modi a Fascist: She is now a BJP leader and is singing praises for the party. But just a year earlier, she launched a scathing attack on the PM, accusing him of carrying forward the ideology of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “It is the double speak of the party that Modi cannot wash his hands off. It is a fascist ideology wholeheartedly backed by Narendra Modi and the BJP. He is simply carrying forward the agenda of the RSS,” she had then said.