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Guest Modi push to Uma campaign

Bhopal, Sept. 18: Narendra Modi is set to provide chief minister aspirant Uma Bharti an “extra push” in election-bound Madhya Pradesh.

Starting October 8, the Hindu “hriday samrat” will hold a series of meetings in the state. Modi will be Bharti’s “guest of honour” at her Sankalp yatra at Indore, epicentre of the Malwa region that accounts for 48 MLAs in the 230-member Assembly.

Confirming the Gujarat chief minister’s participation, a Bharti aide said: “Modiji is a towering leader who successfully led the party to victory in Gujarat. We have his confirmation for October 8. He will also be holding public meetings at Bhopal and areas adjoining Gujarat.”

Modi’s involvement in Madhya Pradesh comes at a time when the RSS, VHP and BJP are closing ranks over the Ayodhya agitation. His participation is seen as part of the consolidation of the Hindutva brigade and marks a strategic shift in the BJP’s game plan.

Bharti and the Madhya Pradesh BJP have insisted that the Assembly polls will be fought on “developmental issues” and that there will be no “Gujarat-like” experiment. She went a step further, discouraging VHP firebrands like Praveen Togadia and Acharya Dharmendra from visiting the state frequently.

Bharti exercised restraint when riots broke out last February in Dhar district over Bhojshala, the 11th century monument that Hindus consider a temple-cum-seat of learning and Muslims regard as a mosque. Four people died in the dispute that is often referred to as Madhya Pradesh’s Ayodhya.

In April, the Archaeological Survey of India permitted Hindus to pray every Tuesday at the monument that Hindus consider a Saraswati-temple-cum-Sanskrit university supposedly built by Raja Bhoj. Muslims, who are allowed to pray every Friday at the monument, moved court appealing against the order. But today the Jabalpur High Court upheld the ASI order and earlier this month, Delhi High Court refused to stay the directive.

With polls drawing near, the BJP does not want to confine itself to the “development plank” though Bharti insists anti-incumbency and Digvijay Singh’s “non-performance” will help the party electorally. A good monsoon has led to a reduction in power cuts and farmers are also complaining less.

These developments have triggered a rethink among a section of the BJP. Meetings were held in Bhopal and Delhi last week where the BJP leadership reviewed its electoral strategy and decided to rope in Modi.

Bharti faces a battle of another kind tomorrow when a special court in Rae Bareli decides on framing charges against the chief ministerial candidate and seven others in the Babri demolition case. Bharti, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, among others, have been charged with spreading communal frenzy and rioting and making provocative speeches ahead of the demolition on December 6, 1992.

The Bharti camp says their future electoral strategy will hinge on the way the case proceeds. Actress Hema Malini and wrestler-turned-actor Dara Singh — recently nominated to the Rajya Sabha — will campaign in Madhya Pradesh soon.

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