The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma in MP poll ring

Bhopal, Oct. 17: The BJP leadership has decided to field Uma Bharti in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, ending months of speculation.

With this move, Bharti has checkmated a powerful section of the BJP trying to dissuade her from joining the poll fray, saying it could compel other chief ministerial aspirants to follow suit.

Bharti, the BJPís chief ministerial aspirant in Madhya Pradesh, is most likely to contest from Bairasia, an Assembly segment that falls under the Bhopal parliamentary constituency that she currently represents in the Lok Sabha.

Informed sources said Bharti got the green signal from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy L.K. Advani and BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu. She is said to have insisted that her engagement would not hinder the partyís campaign.

Bharti said she was confident of contesting from ďany of the 230 Assembly seats spread across the stateĒ but is believed to have preferred Bairasia on account of its caste profile and proximity to state capital Bhopal.

The Bharti camp pointed out several factors weighing in their leaderís favour.

In the faction-ridden BJP unit in Madhya Pradesh, the move is aimed at settling the leadership row once and for all. Although Vajpayee, Advani and Naidu have on several occasions hailed Bharti as the future chief minister, some state BJP leaders are still nursing an ambition to pip her out.

Her presence in Assembly polls is also directed at providing a fillip to the BJP campaign.

The third objective is to convey a strong message to her opponents as well as supporters that she is confident of edging out the 10-year Digvijay Singh regime.

In some BJP quarters, speculation was rife that Bhartiís preoccupation with the Assembly polls could hamper the partyís campaign which she is leading from the front, and Madhya Pradesh, being a huge state, would need her services evenly throughout.

Strategy meet

Vajpayee held a meeting this morning with Advani, Naidu and BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan to discuss the forthcoming Assembly elections.

The leaders reviewed the political situation in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi where the stakes are the highest, sources said. They also shared their assessment of the various rallies and yatras that have been carried out.

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