Six years after sacking her, the BJP on Tuesday welcomed Uma Bharti back in the party fold with ladoos — and a prominent new role.
The sanyasin will not work out of her home turf of Madhya Pradesh — of which she was chief minister for a year in 2003-04 — but has been given the task of reviving the BJP’s fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls next year.
“She will work for the party in UP, taking us from the Ram temple pledge — now supported by the high court — to Ram rajya,” BJP president Nitin Gadkari said. “I have discussed this with all central and state leaders.”
Taking up the challenge, Bharti said, “UP is the state of Ram and roti, Mandal and Kamandal. I want to take the state from Ram temple to Ram rajya.”
The BJP, a dominant force in UP in the 1990s, has progressively declined over the years. It won 50 out of the 403 seats in the state in the 2007 elections, down from 88 in 2002. It finished a dismal fourth in 2009. Its success in the days of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was largely due to a saffron wave and the support of upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs, garnered by Lodh leader Kalyan Singh.
Gadkari believes Bharti — a charismatic leader, powerful orator, popular Hindutva face and OBC Lodh leader — can arrest this decline. “Together, we will end Mayawati’s gunda raj and won’t let Mulayam Singh Yadav’s jungle raj return,” he said.
Bharti was suspended from the BJP after a public spat with senior leader LK Advani in 2004 and expelled in 2005. She went on to form her own party, Bharatiya Janashakti Party, but could not reach the heights she did with the BJP.
Her re-entry was largely due to Gadkari's persistent efforts to convince those opposed to her — MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu, among others — that it would help the party. She also has the RSS’ backing. Leaders opposed to her felt her fiery temperament would prove a liability.
Asked if she would be kept out of MP, Gadkari said she could go anywhere in India but UP was her special focus.