The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma swears by Hindutva, but no Dec. 6 swearing-in

Bhopal, Dec. 4: Sticking to her new avatar as a “development-oriented” leader, Uma Bharti has nixed plans to swear her in as chief minister on December 6, the 11th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister-designate said her government would focus on “gau, garib aur nari (cows, the poor and women)” even as she clarified that her commitment to Hindutva was unflinching.

“It is not a political strategy but an article of faith for all of us,” Bharti said while clarifying that Hindutva should not be seen in a “narrow context of elections”.

Sources close to Bharti said she plans to implement the “Gujarat model” without communal riots and polarisation. “She plans to emulate… Narendra Modi in… focusing on development, investment, infotech…” and in “having a small but efficient ministry,” they added.

The sadhvi arrived here late in the evening after a countrywide temple tour stretching from Udipi to Brindavan. Bhopal came to a standstill with jubilant BJP workers bursting crackers as if Diwali had returned. A closer look at the colour-strewn faces suggested that Holi had arrived three months early.

Mammoth crowds greeted Bharti, chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. Her helicopter landed at the very spot used by chief minister Digvijay Singh during the last 10 years.

Flowers, flags and battlecries forced Bharti to call off a news conference and rush to the party office where many newly-elected MLAs eagerly awaited her. Most of them wanted a darshan and nudge her about their ministerial credentials.

For the first time in the 10 months that Bharti has campaigned for the chief minister’s post, there was no sign of hostility or disquiet.

The BJP rebels were most deferential towards her, jockeying for space to catch her eye and offer their respects.

State unit chief Kailash Joshi and Union ministers Vikram Verma, Sumitra Mahajan and Prahlad Patel spoke in one voice. “It is a victory for Umaji,” gushed Joshi, who was regarded as a rival claimant for the chief minister’s chair which he last occupied in 1977.

Privately, many senior BJP leaders said it would be “futile” to raise their voice against Bharti. “We give her a few months and a year. We will see her performance and then decide our next course of action,” a disgruntled leader said.

Bharti said she had worked out her priorities and promised to resolve the power crisis. She said roads would be improved in a year and unemployment reduced in three years. “I have inherited a messy state and it would take time to set it right,” the sadhvi said.

Bharti denied she was going back on her threat to “punish” Digvijay, who filed a defamation suit against her last month after the sadhvi alleged he was involved in a Rs 15,000 crore scam. Bharti had threatened to order a CBI probe into Digvijay’s omissions and commissions if elected to power.

“The matter (the suit) is in a court of law. I will prove it there that my allegations of corruption are true,” she said today.

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