The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ayodhya blessing to Uma

Bhopal, Sept. 28: The Rae Bareli court verdict in the Babri Masjid demolition case has strengthened Uma Bharti’s hands, giving her the much-needed leverage to counter rivals within the BJP.

The party’s nominee for Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Bharti has now begun calling the shots as the BJP gears up for the “final lap” of the campaign for the November Assembly polls.

She has succeeded in getting the party leadership to direct rivals such as Union ministers Vikram Verma and Sumitra Mahajan to “contribute every bit” to the campaign.

Some of the leaders who were earlier reluctant to play second fiddle to Bharti have been asked to “leave Delhi” and stay put in Madhya Pradesh for the next eight weeks.

More than a dozen Union ministers, too, have been told to fan out in the state to propagate BJP’s achievements at the Centre. The ministers have been informally told not to speak well of Digvijay Singh’s Congress regime, particularly at public fora.

According to BJP sources, the directive to help Bharti has come from the “highest quarters” — that is Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy, L.K. Advani, and party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Not only has the BJP leadership asked senior leaders to “cooperate” with Bharti, it has also generated resources such as helicopters — available all the time — laptops and fax machines for her.

Bharti has till today undertaken more air journeys than chief minister Digvijay Singh, who is officially entitled to travel by helicopter. The BJP leader has, so far, toured 74 Assembly segments by air.

Her road show had covered more than a hundred seats. Bharti’s campaign managers are hoping that her sankalp (resolve) yatra will conclude on October 18, a day before Vajpayee’s public meeting in Bhopal.

According to party leaders managing the campaign, the leadership decided to throw more weight behind Bharti after the Rae Bareli court chargesheeted her.

Soon after the verdict, state BJP leaders hostile to Bharti had sounded out the leadership about changing their nominee for chief minister. The alternative list had included Verma, Mahajan, party general secretary Shivraj Singh Chauhan and state leader of Opposition Babulal Gaur.

They were firmly told that Bharti’s stature had grown after she brazenly flaunted her association with the Ram temple movement. “Even if I lose my life and many lives after this to the cause of the Ram temple, I will have no regrets,” she had said at a public rally on the day of the verdict.

The leadership’s stand vindicated that of her close aide, Kaptan Singh Solanki, who had agreed with Bharti that the verdict had no relation to her electoral aspirations in Madhya Pradesh. “Now, she is doubly eligible for the chief minister’s post. Her contribution to the Ram temple movement is a boon for us,” he had said.

Bharti’s adversaries were also told that the adverse ruling had no legal or moral bearing as the BJP had always considered Ayodhya a political movement. The leadership decided on more patronage because they saw Bharti as the ideal person to propagate the party’s thrust on the temple issue.

Their decision was obviously sealed by a quick survey that showed Bharti’s reach in the state had increased following the verdict.

In the next few days, the power equations in the state BJP will become clearer as the party think-tank sits down to decide ticket distribution. Bharti’s camp is confident of getting most of the seats.

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