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Uma opts out, strife sets in
- Crown goes to rival, BJP readies yatra

Aug. 23: Uma Bharti today ended a short stint as Madhya Pradesh chief minister and headed to a Karnataka court, winching the curtains up on what looks like a season of bitter confrontation between the principal political players in the country.

Uma, whose chief minister’s crown has gone to her arch-rival Babulal Gaur, is on her way to Hubli to surrender in court and face trial for rioting and attempt to murder in the decade-old Idgah maidan case.

She is scheduled to reach Hubli on Wednesday by train and unlikely to seek bail, BJP sources said.

The resignation, expected since last night and cleared by the BJP parliamentary board this morning, came after a court in Hubli quashed Uma’s revision petition on the ground that it was filed “too late”. The court also threw out the earlier S.M. Krishna government’s appeal to withdraw the case against Uma.

But the sessions court said the government could approach afresh the judicial magistrate’s court, which had originally issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Uma, if it wants to do so. The current Dharam Singh government has so far said it wants to press ahead with the case.

Today’s order means the non-bailable arrest warrant against Uma is firmly in place. However, the Karnataka police team that left Bangalore to arrest her did not show up till late at night. There were reports that it had set out from Mumbai for Bhopal, but sources said it had turned back.

With Uma out of power, the BJP looked set to fall back on its time-tested roadshow politics and vowed to launch a tiranga yatra from Hubli to Jallianwala Bagh to protest the arrest order. The party said the order reeked of the 1919 massacre in Amritsar by British police.

Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani hinted that Parliament would be held to ransom, demanding that the Centre take steps to get “all tainted ministers facing non-bailable warrants arrested”.

A perturbed Congress, too, indicated that it is bracing for an abrupt end to the Parliament session as no business is possible in an atmosphere of rancour.

However, NDA chairperson A.B. Vajpayee said the Opposition would allow the passage of the Finance Bill without discussion to avert a crisis. That was the sole voice of conciliation on a day tempers ran high on both sides of the political divide.

The BJP Bhopal office crackled with tension when Uma arrived after stepping down as chief minister. Tears streamed down her face uncontrolled as hundreds of supporters pleaded that she take back her papers.

So charged was the atmosphere that riot police were sent for. Central observer Arun Jaitley did not take the risk of convening an open assembly for BJP legislators, preferring to go in for one-to-one interaction instead.

 

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