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Sushma rises in Uma state

Bhopal, March 12: One didi has been replaced by another in Madhya Pradesh.

Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha who has her roots in Haryana, is the final arbitrator in disputes in the state, closest confidante of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and a popular figure in the state BJP circles.

Her rise has eclipsed another didi — firebrand sadhvi Uma Bharti, who is struggling to stage a comeback in her home state. A former chief minister and now an MLA in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Uma wants to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Bhopal or Tikamgarh. However, Uma’s supporters say she has been asked by the central leadership to consider Jhansi or Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

Sushma, all set to be renominated from Vidisha, is on the other hand being offered the Bhopal seat by the local party unit. Sitting MP Kailash Joshi is opting out on grounds of old age.

The Sushma-Shivraj team has become a legend of sorts. Each time the chief minister needs the Centre’s help, Sushma intervenes to get him an appointment with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or his ministers. In the BJP parliamentary board, too, she is his staunch supporter. In November 2013, she helped clear a move to let him contest from two Assembly seats, Vidisha and Budhni, barely 100km apart.

Now Sushma is backing the chief minister’s wife Sadhna as the candidate for the Vidisha seat vacated by Shivraj, who has retained Budhni. Two days ago, the MP was in Vidisha when a party delegation sought an Assembly ticket for Sadhna. Sushma readily said she would put up the proposal before the central election committee.

“If anyone can create problem in allocation of ticket to Sadhna Singh, it is our chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself. If he agrees, there is no problem,” she joked. Chouhan was present but chose to remain silent, which is being seen as a sign of his acceptance.

Winning will not be a problem for the chief minister’s wife, party sources said. However, a minister said: “It will create problem for us in the state Assembly as the chief minister’s wife will get preferential treatment from party backbenchers and at the same time, the Opposition would mock us.”

State BJP chief Narendra Singh Tomar clarified that the party has not received any proposal to nominate Sadhna. Vidisha will go to the polls on April 24.

Sushma entered Madhya Pradesh politics in 2006 as Rajya Sabha MP from the state, almost at the same time that Shivraj was appointed chief minister.

She won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Vidisha by a big margin. The emergence of a powerful “outsider” rattled the chief minister’s camp but Sushma is said to have taken the lead in supporting him. She consciously avoided becoming a “power centre” in state politics, staying away from appointments, transfers or creating a group of her own.

When Narendra Modi was named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Sushma and Shivraj began working closely. While Shivraj denies any rift with Modi, the prime ministerial nominee’s absence from the state in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls has been glaring. Modi was last seen in MP during the November 2013 Assembly polls.