The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heads or tails, Uma rivals smug after Scindia toss

Bhopal, Aug. 10: The drama involving Yashodhara Raje Scindia’s exit from the BJP underscores the divisions riving the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit and the attempt of disgruntled leaders to undermine chief ministerial aspirant Uma Bharti.

The behind-the-scene activities in the lead-up to Yashodhara’s sudden decision show that her complaints were constantly ignored by powerful state leaders hostile to Bharti, who are now touting the embarrassing resignation as her failure to keep the party together.

Yashodhara, an MLA, was sulking as her demands for removal of the Shivpuri district BJP chief and a stronger stand against Congress strongman K.P. Singh in the Assembly, had fallen on deaf ears. A serious difference had also cropped up when she met Bharti recently.

A section of the state BJP, including state unit chief Kailash Joshi, Union minister Vikram Verma and leader of Opposition in the Assembly Babulal Gaur, is uncomfortable with Bharti’s elevation as chief ministerial nominee.

Bharti’s detractors have been working on a game plan that they claim could lead to a win-win situation. If Yashodhara is persuaded to stay on, it would be seen as a setback to Bharti and if the Scindia scion quits, it would reflect on her leadership.

But Bharti is not sitting idle. She has told deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and other top BJP leaders that she had no role in scuttling Yashodhara’s twin demands for removal of Narendra Birthare and her “expectation” from BJP floor leaders to take on K.P. Singh. After all, Joshi runs the party in the state and Gaur is in charge of the party’s floor strategy.

In Bharti’s scheme of things, Yashodhara’s exit is inconsequential. Unlike the other Scindias, she is not a major political force even in the areas around her hometown Gwalior, let alone the entire state. Her exit would marginally affect Bharti, but the repercussions could hurt the BJP in neighbouring Rajasthan, where Yashodhara’s sister, Vasundhara Raje, is the party’s chief ministerial nominee.

Therefore, the BJP’s central leadership is in a quandary. In internal party meetings, Advani has opposed removal of district party chiefs when Assembly polls are barely three months away. At the same time, the party can ill-afford the embarrassment due to the Vasundhara factor.

Barely able to hide his glee, chief minister Digvijay Singh is keeping an eagle eye on Yashodhara, who has kept everybody guessing about her next move. He is keen to net her to make up for the return of Bharti’s brother, Swami Prasad Lodhi, to the BJP.

For long, Digvijay had coaxed and cajoled Lodhi to desert the BJP to inflict a stinging blow on Bharti.

But the sanyasin turned the tables on the eve of Raksha Bandhan, prevailing upon Lodhi to stay on. Lodhi has sent two letters of apology — one to Joshi, seeking pardon and expressing a desire to work for the BJP, and the other to Digvijay, apologising for having failed to break bonds with sister Bharti.

Bharti copter

A helicopter carrying Bharti was forced to land due to bad weather on a school ground in Manpur near Indore today, PTI reports. Bharti was on her way to Garhi in Khargone, official sources said. She later left for Garhi in a car, they added.

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