Catch her on an aircraft and she will talk endlessly about her fear of flying. But, that has neither stopped Uma Bharti from flying high nor prevented her from campaigning in a chopper. Before she gets into the elevator, she gets two of her security guards to firmly hold back the elevator doors firmly.
Then, like a little girl, she jumps in scared. "Mujhe lift se bhi bahut dar lagta hai (I am scared of the lift too)," she tells you. But Ms Bharti wanted to move up the political ladder in the Bharatiya Janata Party so fast that she dumped it for a political elevator: She floated her own BJP - the Bharatiya Janashakti Party - in April last year. She is a sanyasin fond of fast cars.
That's how Bharti is, "full of contradictions," remarks a seasoned politician who has seen her for years. "I am the real BJP," she had declared after being expelled from the original BJP in December 2005. When she floated her own party in Ujjain on April 30, 2006, she said her party would fight against the BJP's misuse of Hindutva for political gain.
Less than a year later, and contradicting herself once again, Bharti withdrew all her party's candidates from the ongoing Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections "to prevent a split in the Hindu vote" in favour of the original BJP. Her move left former Delhi Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana in a state of shock.
The next day, on April l4, he announced his resignation from Bharti's BJP of which he was vice-president. "I am deeply disappointed. I don't think I will be able to talk about this for a month or maybe even longer," he says. He goes on to add that he has felt completely 'let down if not betrayed' by Bharti's move to side with the party that shunned them.
Despite denials, Bharti's move is being seen as a comeback bid backed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Ashok Singhal. Insiders say it wn not be easy for her pull this off, with not many in the party's top rung happy to see her back. It is not that she has never been able to pull off a victory She was elected to the Lok Sabha five times riding the Hindutva wave. The BJP, led by Bharti, swept a historic win in the December 2003 Madhya Pradesh assembly elections ending the decade-old Congress regime.
The nun ascended to the chief minister's throne to become the first woman in the state to do so. She has had her share of setbacks too. Within a year of becoming CM, a nonbailable warrant was issued against her in the Hubli rioting case and she was forced to resign from the post. As per her wishes, Babulal Gaur succeeded her When a Karnataka court exonerated her, Bharti's supporters wanted her back as CM, but the party gave the post to Vidisha MP Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
In 1984, when she contested the Lok Sabha poll for the first time, Bharti had lost to the sympathy wave in favour of the Congress generated by Indira Gandhi's death.
Her candidates could not win the Bada Ma1hera assembly seat and also lost the Lok Sabha bypolls for Rae Bareli, Vidisha and Bhagalpur. It remains to be seen whether Bharti's move to pull out her candidates in favour of the BJP is a winning one.