The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eye to eye, for Advani's sake

New Delhi, Sept. 27: The first push flopped, the second paid off ' though partially.

L.K. Advani's bid to broker peace between BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and Uma Bharti succeeded to an extent today when the adversaries praised each other and paid back-handed compliments by turn in what was billed as a 'show of solidarity' by the party.

What had been planned as a modest felicitation for the 'tiranga yatra'-weary sadhvi by the Delhi BJP on the lawns of the Constitution Club morphed into a major damage-limitation exercise at Advani's initiative after his first attempt bombed.

Yesterday, the former deputy Prime Minister dabbled in film diplomacy, which he is known for, and brought Naidu and Uma together at his residence for a screening of a music video of patriotic numbers, followed by tea. Those who were present maintained that the sadhvi and the BJP chief rarely made eye contact, forget a conversation.

To top it all, rumours later flew thick and fast that the 'leadership' had promised to assuage Uma's 'hurt' feelings by replacing Madhya Pradesh chief minister Babulal Gaur with general secretary and Vidisha MP Shivraj Singh Chauhan because she reportedly felt Gaur was getting too big for his boots.

Ironically, it was Uma who had opposed Chauhan when he was proposed as a replacement when she stepped down as chief minister after a Karnataka court issued arrest warrants against her in a riot case.

The other rumour was if not the chief minister, Chauhan would be made president of the state BJP. This was denied by a senior functionary who said the party could not have two backward caste representatives in top positions and the state chief would have to be from the upper caste. The leadership is toying with the idea of retaining Kailash Joshi, a Brahmin, after a de jure organisational election.

After the adverse press attention the tea party got, sources said Advani reportedly persuaded Uma to call on Naidu at his residence. The meeting lasted 10 minutes. When it looked as though the ice would not thaw easily, it was decided the two should publicly appear on a common platform, pose for cameras and make statements to 'convince' the cadre that the 'so-called spat' over the 'tiranga yatra' was a 'figment of media imagination'.

Uma executed the brief with more elan than Naidu. 'Poor Naiduji, unhon ne to havan karke haath jala liya (he burnt his hand while doing something propitious). There was a rumour that he did not want my yatra to succeed. But if that was the case, would he have planned it to the last detail and enlisted the services of his general secretaries' He was the prime organiser,' she said.

Naidu said Uma had done nothing on her own, whether it was relinquishing chief ministership or undertaking the 'yatra', in protest against her incarceration. He made it clear that her next project ' the Bharat 'parikrama' ' would be okayed by the BJP after a thorough discussion.

'We do not believe in individualism or dynasty. The party is the mother, our source of inspiration and individuals are secondary. We had our PM, DPM, party president, general secretary but, for everybody, the real leader is our ideology,' Naidu said.

As for the competitive GeNext, his take was: 'Who is angry' Where is the competition' Sushma Swaraj's satyagraha was compared with Uma's yatra. But both were decided by the party.'

As Naidu said how every Congress member had to walk daily to 10 Janpath (party chief Sonia Gandhi's residence) to get a post, Uma's successor Gaur made his second trip in two weeks to shore up his own position.

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