| Uma Bharti: Crowdpuller
Morena (Madhya Pradesh), May 18: Cries of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Uma Bharti sant hai, Digvijay tera ant hai (Uma is a saint; time is up for you, Digvijay)” greet the sadhvi as she tells her followers: “Do not show me that Italian hand, clinch the Hanumanji fist.”
As her sankalp rath rolls on, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for the coming Assembly elections has a similar message for the 86 Assembly segments she has covered till now.
People are told their dakshina (offering) should be a vote for Bharti and that they should vow to drive out the Congress government.
Religion is on display all around, with Bharti stopping at temples, offering puja and blessing the young and old. At places, the sadhvi is blessed by local seers.
On the bank of the river Son, her rath — a Mazda 407 truck —fails to cross the railway bridge that doubles up a road. As the rath slides down the bridge on to the dry river bed, Bharti takes a break, sitting on a bench with no security personnel around, sipping water from an earthen pot.
A man in saffron robes arrives to greet her: “You will conquer your adversaries, but first set your house in order.” Asked how the man knew about the infighting in the state BJP, Bharti laughs, saying he is an old political activist.
Braving the 45-degree Celsius heat in the Chambal, Bharti is an obvious crowdpuller.
At 1.30 in the afternoon, hundreds brave the heat to hear the sadhvi in the Jora Assembly segment.
The message is sharp: chief minister Digvijay Singh is trying to tarnish the image of a sanyasin by making outrageous charges. But like Durga, Bharti is focused, unmindful of the “dirt” being thrown all around her.
As the crowd watches in awe and admiration, Bharti says: “The people of Madhya Pradesh need water, power, roads and a clean administration. A sadhvi has emerged to end your misery and pain.”
Speech over, Bharti proceeds to sit on the front seat of her rath which has no air-conditioner, air-cooler or shade. The vehicle’s lift operates only when the engine is off. A Bharti aide says a new rath will be used during the fifth round of the sankalp yatra starting at Hoshangabad next week.
The new rath is “auspicious” — it is the one that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi used. More important, it has an air-conditioner, an ante room and a clean toilet. The aides fail to mention that the rath was first used by Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal who lost the Punjab elections.