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Uma Bharti back in BJP after six-year exile

Neena Vyas

She will play a key role in strengthening the party in U.P.

— Photo: V. Sudershan

BJP president Nitin Gadkari offers sweets to Uma Bharti, watched by party general secretary Ananth Kumar, after she was reinducted into the BJP at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI: After almost six years in the political wilderness, the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Uma Bharti, was re-admitted to the Sangh Parivar “family” by her ideological parent, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari made the announcement at a news conference here on Tuesday where she was presented with a bouquet of flowers and sweets. She would play a prominent role in strengthening the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

What remained unstated but clear is that she will not meddle in the BJP affairs of her home State — Madhya Pradesh, where her re-entry was only grudgingly accepted. Efforts to bring her back by the former party president, Rajnath Singh, and now Mr. Gadkari had been stonewalled for years.

Not a single BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh, which is now to be her ‘karya bhoomi', as Mr. Gadkari said, or Madhya Pradesh, which has been her ‘karma bhoomi', was present on the podium, where among others general secretary Ananth Kumar and spokesman Shahnawaz Husain welcomed her. Senior leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh were conspicuous by their absence.

Ms. Bharti said she had learnt some lessons in the last six years — since she was expelled in December 2005 — and her ‘manzil' and ‘kinara' (final destination) since then was a return to the BJP. Even during her separation from the parent party, she had remained firmly committed to the Sangh ideology, which had inspired her since she was eight-years-old, she said.

Mr. Gadkari appointed her convener of the Ganga Cell that would take up work on cleaning the sacred river. Referring to the party's “commitment to a Ram temple,” he said Ms. Bharti would help the BJP bring ‘Ram Rajya' to Uttar Pradesh. “The State unit of the party will be strengthened by her re-admission,” he added.

Ms. Bharti said Uttar Pradesh had become “embroiled in the politics of caste and was the ‘Mandal, kamandal State' (a reference to the Mandal Commission that gave reservation to the Backward Castes and ‘kamandal', the symbol of religiosity).”

Ironically, though she condemned the dominance of the caste factor in Uttar Pradesh politics, the BJP's calculation is — as confirmed by several State leaders — that Ms. Bharti, a ‘Lodh' (backward caste), would bring back to the party the considerable ‘Lodh' votes that formed part of its solid vote bank when Kalyan Singh (also a ‘Lodh') was the supreme party leader in the State.

Mr. Gadkari refused to allow Ms. Bharti to answer questions put to her on whether Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan would welcome her. Mr. Gadkari claimed that he had wide consultations with central and State leaders and there was aam sahmati (general consensus) approving her return to the party.

A fait accompli

However, several senior leaders are known to have opposed her return but now view it as a fait accompli. Just before her expulsion, she had charged Pramod Mahajan (now no more) and Arun Jaitley with giving off-the-record briefings to reporters against other party leaders. She had called the former party president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, all kinds of names and ranted against L.K. Advani for “expelling a daughter from the house just days before Deepawali.”

Recently, of course, Mr. Advani favoured her return.

One party leader said he did not think Ms. Bharti could work any magic in Uttar Pradesh as she had failed to make her political mark even in Madhya Pradesh, the State she represented in several Lok Sabhas and from where she was elected Chief Minister.

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