Congress spokeswoman quits in middle of Indian election, joins BJP ally

Priyanka Chaturvedi

MUMBAI, India — A spokeswoman for India’s main opposition Congress party quit on Friday and joined a group allied with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, complaining that misbehavior toward her by male Congress members was ignored.

The resignation of Priyanka Chaturvedi, a regular on prime-time TV debates, is an embarrassing setback for Congress in the middle of a general election, and again raises the contentious issue of the treatment of women in India.

“A serious incident and misbehavior 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 elections,” Chaturvedi wrote in the letter to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, and posted on Twitter.

She told a news conference she had joined Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist group allied with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Her resignation is another problem for the former ruling Congress party, which is facing a confident BJP, buoyed in part by Modi’s tough stand against old rival Pakistan, despite concerns about farm incomes and a lack of jobs.

India’s staggered general election began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.

Chaturvedi said in her resignation letter her services were “not valued” in the party and she had “reached the end of the road”.

She said the male party members she accused of misbehavior were reinstated this week after being suspended.

Congress did not immediately comment on her departure.

But a senior Congress source, who declined to be identified, defended the party’s decision to lift the members’ suspension after “due procedure”.

“She is free to take her own decision,” the source said.

A #MeToo movement in India gathered momentum last year with numerous complaints of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct leveled against prominent journalists, actors, movie directors, comedians and others. — Reuters