New Delhi, April 13: Uma Bharti today announced that she would withdraw all her party’s candidates from the Uttar Pradesh elections to prevent a split in the BJP’s votes.
The decision — being seen in the BJP as a comeback bid — was influenced by VHP leader Ashok Singhal’s appeal yesterday that the Hindu vote should not be divided, she said.
“I respect Ashok Singhal’s sentiments. Let Uttar Pradesh be a test case for the BJP to prove that it is a Hindutva party. If people still believe in the BJP’s ideology, they should get a majority vote. If they don’t, then I would ask Singhalji to tell the RSS that in the next election, the BJP should withdraw its candidates in our favour,” Uma said, still insisting this does not mean she is returning to the BJP.
The firebrand leader was thrown out of the BJP in December 2005 after what party leaders described as a series of “misdemeanours”.
Locking up Sanjay Joshi in a room in the BJP headquarters was one of them. Joshi was organisation secretary when Uma was unseated as Madhya Pradesh chief minister and she blamed him, among others, for her removal. BJP sources said Joshi, who is no longer in the party, was released only after senior leaders intervened.
Former BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu was at the receiving end of choicest abuses when Uma felt he had not supported Tiranga Yatra, a rally she took out in the wake of a criminal case against her.
The BJP has also not forgotten the spectacle of her lashing out at L.K. Advani in full view of television cameras.
But going by Advani’s recent comments — “I would like to say that all those people who had been with us should come in support of Hindutva” — he seems to have forgiven Uma.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who never had a direct face-off with her, is considered “favourably inclined” to her return, and BJP chief Rajnath Singh is one of the few lucky leaders in Uttar Pradesh whom Uma has not humiliated publicly.
Apart from Naidu, those who would not take kindly to her return are Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar.
Officially, however, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar only said: “We would be happy if anyone withdraws candidates in our favour.”
Uma’s gesture to pull out her candidates in the BJP’s favour would not have counted for much had it not been preceded by Singhal’s appeal to all Hindutva forces to unite. Singhal’s clout has increased significantly in the BJP of late.
He was instrumental in the return of Yogi Adityanath, the MP from Gorakhpur who is an influential Hindu radical in eastern Uttar Pradesh, to the BJP.
Adityanath had quit the party and fielded about 40 candidates in the region, who could have damaged the party prospects considerably.
In spite of the VHP’s support, sources said Uma would still not have made this public announcement had Singhal not been given a concrete assurance by “someone important” in the RSS.
Even Singhal’s argument for bringing her back — that Hindutva forces should unite — is an echo of what the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya had written after Uma’s candidate polled 1,37,354 votes in the Vidisha bypoll.
Uma floated the Bharatiya Janshakti Party 11 months ago.
The stage then seems set for the prodigal daughter’s return, possibly “after the Uttar Pradesh elections”.