The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma damned herself: Atal

New Delhi, Nov. 13: Breaking his silence on Uma Bharti's dramatic walkout from a BJP meet on Wednesday, Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said the party had not thrown her out but she had brought the suspension upon herself.

Referring to Uma's accusation that BJP president L.K. Advani had thrown her out on Dhanteras despite treating her like a 'daughter', Vajpayee said: 'That statement on Dhanteras was meant to touch our hearts. But she (Uma) forgot she was then in an office and not at home. She herself walked out of the programme, nobody asked her to leave.'

He also made it clear that there was no reference to any 'indiscipline' that Uma may have committed in Advani's speech. In her letter to Advani the next day, she had pleaded that she found no evidence of indiscipline that could have invited action against her. 'Nobody spoke of indiscipline,' Vajpayee said.

Vajpayee's comments, made at an iftar he hosted this evening, were the first from a senior BJP leader on the walkout. Declining to take questions on whether the sadhvi would return, he said: 'Making someone understand and to be understood are part of an ongoing process. The world rests on eternal hope.'

Vajpayee denied the decision to televise the meeting had provoked Uma to walk out. 'I don't think she did it because of the presence of TV,' he said.

The former Prime Minister hinted there was no 'conspiracy' to deny Uma the chief minister's post after she was cleared of rioting charges. Uma's confidants claimed she should have been reinstated but alleged there were 'vested interests' that wanted Babulal Gaur to remain in office.

'It was her decision to resign (as CM) and what was to be done after that (the exoneration) was also hers,' he said.

Vajpayee asserted that Uma's case could not be compared with that of Kalyan Singh, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister who had to quit the BJP after he took on the former Prime Minister. But Vajpayee himself saw to it that Kalyan returned 'home' before the last Lok Sabha elections after he sought his pardon.

'No, the cases are different,' he said when asked if he would forgive and forget what Uma had done.

The decision to reconsider her suspension has not yet been discussed in the party. Nor would Vajpayee put a time frame to it. 'I cannot say when she will come home,' he said.

Although Advani was in Delhi, he did not attend the iftar, which was thrown at short notice. An aide said Advani had an engagement at the Akshardham temple. But BJP sources claimed the absence was 'deliberate' because the party thought it 'appropriate' to allow Vajpayee field press queries.

Those who pronounced Vajpayee's political epitaph after Advani took over the BJP are now wondering if they had second-guessed. Vajpayee was expected to function as a titular head of the NDA but things appear to have changed since Advani has been caught in the Hindutva-moderate crossfire.

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