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BJP to end yatra if Uma freed
- Wary of larger-than-life Bharti, party rules out sadhvi return as chief minister

New Delhi, Aug. 30: The BJP is likely to call off its satyagraha and Tiranga Yatra if former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti is released from jail tomorrow or the day after.

Party sources said they expect the Hubli court, where Bharti will stand trial, to quash the charges against her after the Karnataka government informed the high court that it stands by an earlier cabinet decision to withdraw the 10-year-old case.

Bharti has been accused of inciting violence after a 1994 flag-hoisting ceremony on the banned Idgah Maidan that left seven persons dead.

Although Karnataka High Court dismissed a public interest litigation seeking to quash the proceedings against Bharti, it directed the judicial magistrate (first class) at Hubli to reconsider the government’s application to withdraw the case.

“If that happens, we will call off our agitation,” said BJP vice-president and spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Leader of Opposition .K. Advani was to launch a satyagraha in Bangalore tomorrow, which was supposed to continue for eight days in various cities with top leaders participating.

Sources, however, ruled out the possibility of Bharti returning as chief minister. “The Karnataka case was not the only thing which went against her. There was large-scale disenchantment among our rank and file with her way of functioning and the way she allowed a coterie of relatives and acolytes to run the government. She blew up an opportunity of a lifetime in seven months,” a source said.

Sources said once out of jail, Bharti would be asked not to go on her yatra but concentrate on the Maharashtra elections. The strategy is to involve national leaders in the Assembly polls without allowing them to get “distracted” by another programme. The Gujarat BJP, which was planning to send a batch of 500 workers to Karnataka for the yatra, has been advised to spare them for Maharashtra.

A view is emerging in the party that if Bharti is allowed to “have her way”, she would use the yatra to build a larger-than-life image for herself and, in the process, intensify the tussle for the top job in the party. Although M. Venkaiah Naidu has two years of his term left, his authority is being questioned for several reasons.

First, for his refusal to even accept token responsibility for the defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. Naidu’s refrain has been that election management is a “collective” responsibility. The BJP president has also earned the wrath of some for joining issue with Atal Bihari Vajpayee on whether Narenda Modi should stay as Gujarat chief minister.

Naidu is unlikely to be replaced before the Maharashtra polls, the sources said. But, they added, once the elections are over, his position would be challenged irrespective of the outcome.

If the BJP-Shiv Sena wins, general secretary Pramod Mahajan — reportedly working overtime in his home base to salvage his status — would be on the ascendant. If it loses, not only Mahajan but Naidu also will have to take the flak for presiding over successive losses.

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