The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bharti kin hiccup in BJP race

New Delhi, Jan. 24: Uma Bharti’s brother Swami Prasad Lodhi has threatened to put the brakes on what the BJP hoped would be a smooth ride to power in Madhya Pradesh.

Lodhi, a BJP legislator from Malhera Assembly, was served a showcause notice yesterday for announcing in public that he was in touch with chief minister Digvijay Singh and could join the Congress before the November elections.

The party has suspended Lodhi and asked him to explain his conduct within a week. He had made the announcement during a function at Tikamgarh, Bharti’s political turf, earlier this week.

“Action will be taken against her (Bharti’s) brother,” BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said today. “Anyone who crosses the Lakshman rekha would be severely dealt with,” he added.

The rebellion could not have come at a more inopportune moment for the BJP. In projecting Bharti as its prospective chief minister, the party calculated that the combination of her chutzpah and caste was the perfect answer to Digvijay, rated as the toughest Congress nut to crack.

“She symbolises the Hindutva ideology and the aspirations of the downtrodden in her persona,” said a BJP functionary, pointing to the ease with which Bharti plays out her twin roles as champion of Hindutva and of the Other Backward Classes, to which she belongs.

State BJP sources alleged that Bharti’s brother was facing several criminal charges. Digvijay had lured him with the “promise” that he would withdraw the more serious charges and Lodhi “promptly bit the bait”, they added.

However, political observers put Lodhi's rebellion down to Digvijay’s still superior skills at realpolitik with the assessment that despite a 10-year rule and the anti-incumbency factor, the Congress was better placed than the BJP in Bhopal.

“From Digvijay’s point of view, Lodhi is a prize catch because he is not just any other MLA but the brother of the very person the BJP is pitting against him. The symbolic value is important,” said sources.

In the 1998 Assembly elections, Bharti had got a ticket for Lodhi despite stiff opposition from BJP veterans Kushabhau Thakre and Sunderlal Patwa. But the two have been estranged for a year following a land dispute.

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