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Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong govt unfurls U-turn on Uma

Bangalore, Aug. 30: Jailed BJP leader Uma Bharti may walk free in a couple of days, but it is the Congress that is breathing a bigger sigh of relief.

In a surprise somersault aimed at denying the BJP a plank before the October elections in Maharashtra, the Dharam Singh government told Karnataka High Court today that it stood by an earlier decision to drop riot charges against the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister.

Advocate-general B.T. Parthasarathy said there was no change in the government’s January 23, 2002, decision to drop charges against Uma, accused of inciting a flare-up after a 1994 flag-raising ceremony on the disputed Idgah Maidan left several persons dead.

Chief Justice N.K. Jain and Justice V.G. Sabhahit directed the Hubli court, before which Uma had surrendered on August 25, to “consider the application” of the additional public prosecutor . The judges said Uma could approach the high court for bail and for quashing proceedings against her.

Sources said the government’s U-turn came after Congress leaders factored in the negative impact on the party in the run-up to the polls in neighbouring Maharashtra.

On Saturday, two Congress central leaders told Dharam Singh that the BJP and the Shiv Sena could turn Uma’s detention and the controversy over an alleged insult to Veer Savarkar into twin nationalism issues. Yesterday, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, whose Janata Dal (S) is part of the Dharam Singh-led coalition, also advised the chief minister against giving the BJP an opportunity to generate sympathy.

The sources said the Congress also took into account the effect of the eight-day countrywide satyagraha top BJP leader L.K. Advani is scheduled to launch in Bangalore on September 1. The BJP today said if the court sets Uma free before that date, its protest will be converted into a victory celebration.

The state government’s move has also given the BJP a face-saver as the party was not sure of the response to its agitation in places where it does not enjoy support.

Parthasarathy said “there is no political vendetta” against the former chief minister. “The sad chapter has been brought to an end,” Parthasarathy told reporters later. “This is a happy ending to a 10-year-old case. The impression that the present government does not share the views of the previous government (on withdrawal of charges against Uma) is wrong.”

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