The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma repeats Jaya’s jumbo gesture

Bhopal, Oct. 27: One is an imperious lady known for her flamboyant lifestyle and the other is a sadhvi famous for firebrand speeches. But both choose to gift elephants to the gods for the chief minister’s chair.

BJP leader Uma Bharti has followed in ADMK chief Jayalalithaa’s footsteps and presented an elephant to Nirmohi Akhara mahant Ram Ashray Das at Chitrakoot.

Soon after becoming Tamil Nadu chief minister in July 2001, Jayalalithaa had presented the tusker Krishna to the Guruvayur temple in Kerala.

Jayalalithaa, hounded by corruption charges and a hostile government, had defied all odds to claim the hot seat. The ADMK chief had attributed her victory to the Guruvayur deity, Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. The Tamil Nadu chief minister had said she offered the elephant on the advice of Kerala-based astrologer Parappanangadi Unnikrishnan, who had predicted a landslide victory for her. She had also donated Rs 1.05 lakh for the upkeep of the pachyderm.

Bharti, who has taken her tusker cue, is pitted against Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh who — like CPM veteran Jyoti Basu and Telugu Desam Party chief . Chandrababu Naidu — is adept at countering the anti-incumbency factor. Seeking a third consecutive term, Digvijay has declared that he would go on a “10-year political exile” if Bharti defeats him.

The stakes are high for Bharti, who has been picked ahead of state party stalwarts such as Kailash Joshi, Vikram Verma, Sunderlal Patwa and Sumitra Mahajan. The BJP leader’s challenge is two-fold. She has to humble Digvijay and, at the same time, tame her own colleagues who are still reluctant to accept her leadership.

A section of the state Congress was itching to make political capital out of Bharti’s gesture of gifting an elephant, but Digvijay is said to have vetoed the plan. With crucial polls round the corner, Digvijay, a self-proclaimed sanatandharmi (traditionalist), said to be in no mood to incur the god’s wrath.

Bharti’s supporters, however, sought to underplay that she had chief ministerial ambitions when she gifted the tusker. They said she had learnt that an elephant belonging to the Nirmohi Akhara had died when she had visited Nanaji Deshmukh’s ashram and the neighbouring areas. For the next three months, she collected funds and, on Diwali, handed over the elephant to the mahant.

Chitrakoot is an important destination for many Sangh parivar leaders. In the early nineties, the octogenarian Deshmukh had shifted his base to Chitrakoot to set up a rural university. Deshmukh had said he had come to Chitrakoot because of its history and association with Ram.

“This is where Ram came after renouncing his throne and Bharat followed him. I want to remind people of their example at a time when politicians lust for power and those like (RJD chief) Laloo Prasad Yadav refuse to give it up,” he had said.

The spiritual legacy of this northern spur of the Vindhyas goes back for ages. It was in these deep forests that Ram and Sita are supposed to have spent their years of exile. Atri and Sati Anusuya meditated here and the principal trinity of the Hindu pantheon — Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh — took their incarnations in this place.

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