Six months ago, when Uma Bharti formed her Bhartiya Janshakti Party, those in the BJP smirked. Today, as Bharti launches an aggressive membership drive, the BJP is worried about losing its numbers to her.
When Bharti presided over the party's national convention last week, she ruled out any possibility of going back to the BJP and asked her supporters not to hesitate while enrolling old colleagues from the BJP.
That was enough for the BJP to sit up. It began by lodging cases against Bharti's men. Party state membership drive convener Bhagwandas Sabnani has been booked for encroachment of Bhopal Development Authority (BDA) land. The Janshakti struck back, seeking action against BDA chairman Dhruvnarayan Singh. Earlier this month, the Gwalior police arrested another Janshakti membership convener Pritam Sigh Lodhi in connection with some old criminal cases pending against him. Those in the Janshakti say the government's reaction is an indication of Bharti's apparent resurgence.
The conflict between the two parties is likely to snowball as the Janshakti aims to fight the BJP in the forthcoming by-elections -- first to the Vidisha LS seat which Shivraj Singh Chauhan vacated and then the Bada Malahra assembly seat that Bharti quit after she formed her party.
Janshakti leaders are confident they will be able to rope in more BJP leaders before the assembly polls.