The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Princess keeps parties guessing

Bhopal, Sept. 10: The Yashodhara Raje Scindia flip-flop continues in election-bound Madhya Pradesh, with no one too sure if she is inching towards the Congress or will remain in the BJP.

The princess of Gwalior held an impressive rally at her Shivpuri constituency last night at which her loyalists chanted: “Atal ka saara desh, Yashodhara ka Madhya Pradesh (the country belongs to Atal, Madhya Pradesh to Yashodhara).”

Yashodhara, who does not get along with Uma Bharti — the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the state — has been making contradictory statements of late.

Last month, she said she was resigning as MLA and taking a short sanyas from politics. But BJP patriarch Kushabhau Thakre’s efforts to broker a truce and meetings with the Prime Minister, his deputy L.K. Advani and party chief M. Venkaiah Nadu appeared to have made the princess soften her stand.

A fortnight ago, Yashodhara said she was “very much part of the BJP” and was ready to contest elections from a constituency of the party’s choice. The party had last month refused to let her shift to the Scindia family borough of Gwalior and did not entertain her demands for removing the Shivpuri district party chief and taking a stronger stand against a local Congress strongman. Yashodhara’s inability to have her way and her serious differences of opinion with Bharti made her think of quitting.

But Bharti’s supporters are taking yesterday’s rally as a sign of open rebellion by Yasodhara. They allege that a senior BJP general secretary is backing her even at the cost of hurting the party’s electoral chances.

The sadhvi herself did not make any comment. Her supporters, however, wonder why the MLA is being accorded “royal treatment”. They say it is strange that Yashodhara’s name has been cleared for the Shivpuri seat when she has been defying party discipline and saying that she is free to decide on her future course of action.

Yashodhara last night spoke of her dissatisfaction with “power politics” and positioned herself as a “true representative” of Rajmata Scindia. She spoke of cleansing politics from “self-seekers and power seekers”, adding: “I am not in politics to aspire for office. My upbringing has been such that I am solely driven by social work and public welfare and I shall continue to do so.”

But the Bharti camp is not convinced, saying Yashodhara has a “hidden agenda”. A state-level BJP functionary said: “It is an open secret that she called on Sonia Gandhi and met AICC general secretary Kamal Nath. It is just that when (her nephew) Jyotiraditya (Scindia) opposed her entry into the Congress that she decided to stay on in the BJP.”

Bharti supporters claim that though Yasodhara met top BJP leaders, nobody made any promise to her.

Even though Yashodhara denies knocking on Congress doors, local leaders of the party were around to greet her yesterday when she took part in the Ganesh festival at Shivpuri and addressed a rally.

The princess has been sulking after being unable to get some district-level functionaries in Shivpuri and Guna loyal to the sadhvi removed. The Bharti camp then tried to get her removed, but Yashodhara was able to fall back on a powerful BJP general secretary for support.

It would appear that another round of battle will be fought out before Vajpayee, Advani and Naidu. As the mudslinging continues unabated, everyone agrees that the state BJP will be the loser.

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