The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma demolishes BJP pride
Suspension follows revolt, RSS steps in

New Delhi, Nov. 10: Uma's wrath today burned the BJP's vaunted body of discipline to a skeleton ' in full glare of cameras.

The rebellion that challenged the authority of BJP president L.K. Advani forced the party to suspend Uma Bharti 'till further action'.

Uma, who has been locked in a war of nerves with several senior leaders, accused some colleagues of spreading stories to 'lower my prestige' and demanded a discussion at a meeting of the party's central office-bearers. When Advani refused, she walked out, saying: 'I want you to take disciplinary action against me.'

As she headed straight to the RSS headquarters, the BJP announced that the firebrand sanyasin had been suspended.

Uma was closeted with general secretary Madan Das Devi for nearly two hours. Although the RSS refused to comment, it is reliably learnt that the Sangh counselled the BJP to reconsider. Uma had emerged as a front-ranking leader of potential, it argued.

Sources said if she apologises, the suspension may be revoked but a 'longish cooling-off' period would be required. Uma was seen shopping near Connaught Place soon after she left the RSS office.

The suspension followed days of dithering after Uma started a campaign for the ouster of general secretary Pramod Mahajan, indirectly referring to him as 'power-broker', and earlier against M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Barring one office-bearer closely associated with Uma in the Madhya Pradesh elections and who, sources alleged, wanted to 'put down' Mahajan through her, the rest of the BJP felt Advani should take action against her if he has to retain his authority.

Matters came to a head when Uma allegedly bad-mouthed even Advani before some mediapersons.

Last night, at a dinner hosted by Advani for party veteran J.P. Mathur, the dominant mood was that Uma should be 'fixed' at the morning meeting. Her lone sympathiser sensed the mood and reportedly distanced himself from her.

To rub in the message that Advani would not brook 'indiscipline', an unprecedented decision was taken to allow live telecast of his address. The practice so far has been to bar the media from all meetings except the national council.

'We wanted to show the world that Advani will not tolerate nonsense from anyone,' a source said.

The calculation backfired. 'There is a limit to how much departure from discipline can be tolerated. Party leaders neither talk to me nor each other but only through the media. Why don't you talk to us' Our heads hang in shame that we are always in the news for the wrong reasons,' the party chief said in his opening speech.

Advani referred to individuals ' an extraordinary step in the BJP. 'Workers ask us what are Uma Bharti, Shahnawaz Hussain and (Mukhtar Abbas) Naqvi saying' I have no answer. It appears as though the BJP only revolves around these three persons.'

Uma took on Advani. 'There are four-five people in this hall who do off-the-record briefings which appear as headlines and there are people who cannot do this. So we are forced to defend our honour by being compelled to speak on record and that is being branded as indiscipline.'

Advani said: 'I have said this matter is being closed. Closed means closed for all.'

But Uma protested: 'No, I am sorry, Advaniji. I want to discuss it here. ' Then she walked out.

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