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Exiled from power, Uma Bharti struggles to stay afloat

Ranjan, Hindustan Times  Bhopal, November 11, 2013
First Published: 22:28 IST(11/11/2013) | Last Updated: 14:20 IST(7/12/2013)

Uma Bharti’s return to the BJP doesn’t appear to be paying off.

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The prodigal daughter, who had been expelled from the party in 2005, had returned with the blessings of father figure and party veteran LK Advani — the same Advani who was the cause of her suspension in 2004. But even this time, the fiery sanyasin had backed the wrong horse. Today, the fire burns, but barely.

Bharti’s big mistake was misjudging the mood of the nation — where intra-party politics is playing second fiddle to people’s demand for governance. And now, she is paying the price for her rift with ruling chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, for which she had been thrown out of the party in the first place.

“Chouhan can never forget the time she called him a “bachcha chor” when he took over the hot seat which she had occupied in the peak of her career. It is now his turn to pay in kind,” said a member of the Chouhan camp.

And Chouhan is paying back in spades, making her practically the persona non grata in a party and a state where she had wielded power for years.

Despite Bharti being an official star campaigner — “a deadly combination of saffron, OBC, woman and a powerful orator,” as BJP state campaign chairman Anil Dave had put it — she has shared the stage with the CM just a few times. A party national vice-president, she was hardly consulted during ticket distribution. All she got was a ticket for her nephew, that too through personal intervention in Delhi. 

This was barely what Bharti had expected.

Born in a poor family, but raised in the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior, she has always been used to limelight and power. One of the people spearheading the BJP’s temple movement, she won the parliamentary election in 1989 — the first of five terms — and held key portfolios in the NDA government. And in 2003, she had almost single-handedly led the party to a three-fourth majority in Madhya Pradesh, seeing the 10-year-old Digvijaya Singh government out.

But then came the bad times. Following a spat with Advani, she was suspended for nearly six months. Reinstated, she could not even hang on for a year.

Within eleven months, she was thrown out for disputing with the leadership’s decision to anoint Chouhan the leader of BJP legislature party instead of her candidate Babulal Gaur. The Hindu-oriented Bharatiya Janshakti Party she formed thereafter proved a flop and she was forced to eat humble pie and come back to the BJP. 

But even then, her task of heading the party’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh for the March 2012 assembly polls did not meet with any major success. It was clear to all that Bharti flowers only in a divisive rhetoric – an agenda she toyed with briefly after the riots in Muzaffarnagar.

Today, Bharti sounds much chastened.

Not only did she underline that she was willing to canvass for the party only if asked, she even went to the extent of praising Chouhan’s leadership several times.

The taming of the sanyasin appears almost complete.

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