Debating India

BJP may pay dearly for Uma divorce

Sudeep Mukhia

Wednesday 10 November 2004, by MUKHIA*Sudeep

NEW DELHI: Call it the onion effect if you will. Uma Bharti’s expulsion from the BJP for six years for indiscipline has layers of implications both for the party, and for politics in general.

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BJP leader Uma Bharti gesticulating during the BJP office bearer’s meeting held at party headquarters in New Delhi. (PTI photo)

For the BJP itself, Bharti’s outburst brings to the front the deep differences that have ripped the party after its loss in the general elections and then in Maharashtra. A shocked audience, that included party president L K Advani and former prime minister A B Vajpayee, watched Bharti spit fire at her colleagues without naming them and then storm out of the meeting.

Bharti had been making critical remarks against several second-rung leaders in the BJP. Her primary focus was Pramod Mahajan, whom she had called a "power broker" soon after the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance lost the Maharashtra election.

It was apparent that no one on the dais was quite prepared for such an outburst on Wednesday, but the BJP’s knee-jerk reaction of suspending her from primary membership could actually do the party more harm than good.

Losing Bharti will not only damage the party image, but also make the BJP’s attempts to regain ground in the 2005 Assembly polls tougher.

According to party insiders, Advani had earmarked Bharti for Bihar, to counter the caste politics of Lalu Yadav and the RJD and use her indisputed ability to whip up mass support.

While it is understood that Bharti has the tacit support of the RSS (and the VHP) in her repeated criticism of BJP colleagues, freeing her from the BJP’s direct influence could pose a problem for Advani and Co.

With no party to restraint her, Bharti is now pretty much a ’free agent’ who can pull support from within the party on the Ram Temple issue.

The Advani camp is well aware that this issue will no longer get the BJP votes, but the party rank and file find it easier to identify with this issue.

The RSS and the VHP will more than welcome this. The Sangh brothers have been extremely critical of the BJP and have blamed the party for letting up on the Ram Temple.

This is no good news for the ’secular combine’ of the UPA government either. If Bharti succeeds in creating her own political space by hammering away at her Ram Temple demand, it might amount to more than nuisance value. It might foment serious law and order headaches as well.

The other scenario for Uma Bharti could be a replay of the Kalyan Singh fiasco. The UP BJP leader had to return to the BJP after wandering around in the political wilderness for quite some time. But with the solid backing of the RSS and the VHP, this looks an unlikely future for the sanyasin.

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