Uma Bharti, 54, the saffron robed sadhvi and BJP's candidate from the Jhansi-Lalitpur Lok Sabha seat is known for her firebrand image. She has been in news for shooting her mouth once too often. But she dismisses it saying it's just a "perception" created by the media .
"I am outspoken which is often misconstrued," she says. Half-an-hour before filing her nomination on Friday, Bharti tells HT that she has come a long way in the party and the journey was worth it.
Q) Do you miss completing your tenure as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, especially after leading the party to a fantastic victory in 2003?
A) It pains my heart. I expect some more respect, which is my due, from Shivraj Singh Chouhan. … that is where he lags. I staked my life… worked hard to ensure the party's victory but did not get the respect that I deserve. I am, however, happy that Shivraj is continuing the work that I started.
BJP is seeing a rise of OBC leaders – be it you or Narendra Modi, the party's PM candidate. Your views.
A) Caste was never the focus when the party decided to name Modi as the PM candidate. Even now unlike others we have not made it an issue. Isn't it a good beginning for the country where parties play casteist politics? It should be a lesson for leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh.
Does BJP stand a chance of winning in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh which has four Lok Sabha seats? BJP was completely wiped out here in 2009.
A) In 2009 issues were different. BSP and SP had polarized votes by playing casteist politics. Now the situation has changed … issues have changed. Development is our main agenda not only here but nationally. People here are fed up of corruption, lawlessness and unemployment. They want development. They want credible leader. And credibility is my base. My credibility has earned me a lot of respect. People here in Jhansi know that.
Are you for a separate Bundelkhand state?
A) BJP has always wanted smaller states. But as far as Bundelkhand is concerned there is still lack of clarity on the contours of what the separate state would look like. Some parties are talking about it but it needs to be thoroughly discussed before a final decision is taken.
Q) From being a firebrand Hinduvta sadhvi who talked only about religion and temple, you now talk about development issues. Was this image makeover deliberate?
A) There is no image makeover. It's all media's creation. Even before I started talking about Ram Janambhoomi, I had fought against atrocities meted out to the poor people in Bundelkhand. Not many people know that as nobody highlighted it.
Q) As somebody who started giving religious discourses from a very young age you have come a long way. How does it feel?
A) Life has come a full circle for me. At a personal level, there is deep contentment. The kind of respect I have earned for myself, the credibility… I think it was all worth it.