The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drown cry doesn't sink
Uma Rebel floats on Sangh steam

New Delhi, Nov. 10: 'Vinasha kale vipreetha buddhi' ' those whom the gods wish to destroy are first driven crazy.

This was the response of a former BJP ideologue to Uma Bharti's suspension.

If that was one opinion, the other more dominant view was the tantrum-throwing sadhvi had it coming. It was all right as long as she blasted M. Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan or Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. But when L.K. Advani himself was the target ' Uma allegedly bad-mouthed the party chief to her confidants in the media ' she 'deserved to drown'.

However, with a section of the RSS, VHP and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch behind her, Uma managed to keep her head above water. According to observers, the fact that she is a woman who combines the two major strands of contemporary Indian politics ' mandir and Mandal ' in her persona would make her a 'hard' target for the BJP to crush.

This is the reason why the Bihar BJP, for instance, reportedly felt that the party should not push her too much for fear of provoking a backward-caste backlash in the coming Assembly polls.

The BJP has the experience of 'punishing' a fellow backward caste Lodhi, Kalyan Singh. Like Uma, Kalyan was a symbol of the temple era. But his expulsion, for challenging Atal Bihari Vajpayee, marked the BJP's downfall in Uttar Pradesh because it lost its nucleus Hindutva votes and support from the backward-caste peasantry as well.

These were the attributes the party played on when it projected Uma as its chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh. 'But it is typical of the BJP to use and discard the OBCs,' said an insider.

Uma's suspension is symptomatic of the larger problems that beset the BJP. When she referred to the 'off-the-record' press briefings against her by some colleagues in her parting shot to Advani today, she ought to have conceded that she was less of a victim of such exercises than other leaders.

Uma had a point when she spoke of how 'rootless members of the Upper House' indulged in these to score brownie points and more.

The key functionaries in Advani's core team of decision-makers are Rajya Sabha MPs (Pramod Mahajan, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Naidu, Bal Apte and Arun Jaitley). 'Zamini netas' (grassroots leaders) like Kalyan no longer matter, sources said.

The sources recalled that in Advani's earlier stints as party chief, K.N. Govindacharya was his conduit to the ground, Kushabhau Thakre and S.S. Bhandari handled the organisation, Mahajan was the cadre motivator while Jaitley and Sushma were the articulate public faces. 'Today he is left with sycophants, schemers and backbiters,' said a source.

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