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Unease in Madhya Pradesh BJP over Uma Bharti’s ‘Vyapam conspiracy’ remark

Insiders believe Chouhan’s detractors could rally behind Bharti in the coming months, provided she takes the issue forward and the BJP leadership does not intervene.

bhopal Updated: Feb 14, 2018 18:32 IST
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh,BJP,Uma Bharti
Union water resources minister Uma Bharti listed the demise of her mother, suicide of her sister-in-law, and her name cropping up in the Vyapam scam as the most agonising moments of her life.

Union drinking water and sanitation minister Uma Bharti’s remark that her name was dragged into the Vyapam scam as part of a political conspiracy has caused a flutter in the BJP, and insiders believe it could lead to an intra-party feud ahead of the assembly elections.

Addressing a press conference in Bhopal on Tuesday, Bharti had listed her mother’s demise, sister-in-law’s suicide and her name being dragged into the Vyapam scam as the three most agonising moments in her life. Notably, a charge sheet filed at a special court in the state capital had mentioned the Union minister’s name but not as an accused in the multi-layer examination scam.

Bharti had served as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh until August 2004, when a Karnataka court issued an arrest warrant against her in connection with the 1994 Hubli riots. Forced to resign, she chose Babulal Gaur as her successor. She was expelled from the party a year later for rebelling against a decision to replace Gaur with Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Bharti was re-inducted into the BJP only in 2011.

A senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity that although Bharti refrained from naming the person responsible for hatching the alleged conspiracy, but there was “hardly any doubt” about who she was referring to.

The Congress, led by AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, had alleged over two years ago that certain elements tampered with excel sheets from the Vyapam office by replacing the word CM with Bharti’s name at several places. They sought a CBI investigation into the alleged attempt to protect chief minister Chouhan. “I will not comment if Uma Bharti was involved in the scam or not, but if she is accusing someone of hatching a conspiracy against her, she probably means the state government or the special task force (that probed the case),” said Vivek Tankha, Congress Rajya Sabha member and senior Supreme Court lawyer.

Another BJP leader noted how the Union minister’s accusation came at a time when Chouhan inducted Jalam Singh Patel, Lodhi leader and younger brother of party MP Prahlad Singh Patel, into his cabinet. “She hails from the Lodhi community too. So, considering that Uma has been sidelined by the state BJP for the last 12 years, the emergence of other Lodhi leaders in the party as its OBC face is bound to set alarm bells ringing in her camp,” he said.

Prahlad Singh Patel was one of Bharti’s aides when she was expelled from the BJP in 2005. However, he later fell out with her and returned to the party.

The party leader said Chouhan’s detractors could rally behind Bharti in the coming months, provided she takes the issue forward and the BJP leadership does not intervene.

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 18:31 IST