The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP search for Uma new role
- Ex-CM promises to hit back in Maharashtra polls, party plans Vijay Divas

New Delhi, Sept. 6: With Uma Bharti out of jail, the BJP is grappling with two immediate issues — whether to go ahead with the tiranga (Tricolour) rally from Hubli to Jallianwala Bagh she had set her heart on and, more important, how to engage her “purposefully”.

Sources said while the rally could be put off on the plea that the BJP organisation is completely involved with the Maharashtra elections and cannot afford to plunge into a long-drawn programme, they admitted there were no “easy” answers to what Uma is expected to do.

While BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu has ruled out reinstating her as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, “at least not for some time”, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has denied that she would take over the party. The theory was gaining credence among a section of the RSS and the BJP after reports that the Sangh, including the VHP, wanted Uma to replace Naidu and resurrect the Hindutva agenda.

Asked what plans the BJP had for Uma, spokesman Arun Jaitley said a decision would be taken at a meeting of the central office-bearers in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Queried on whether her return to Bhopal as chief minister was an open issue, he said: “I am not offering a comment.” He indicated that as the priority was the Maharashtra elections, Uma would be used as a “star” campaigner.

On how the Uma episode — her detention on riot charges after a controversial flag-hoisting ceremony resulted in several deaths 10 years ago and her release — would impact the polls, Jaitley said: “It has definitely dented the credibility of the Karnataka government and the Centre and this will naturally influence the electorate. No election is a single-issue election, it is a basket of issues. But we are in politics. If action is taken against one of our chief ministers for political reasons, our response will be political and legal. The issue will not be over.”

The view in the BJP is that the leadership had rallied behind Uma when she was in jail, with everyone from .K. Advani to Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaitley courting arrest in protest. Though the party had initially planned to end its relay “satyagraha” in a massive show of strength in Bangalore on Wednesday, the programme has been transformed into a “Vijay Divas” (Victory Day). Vajpayee will address a rally on that day.

The sources said that apart from Maharashtra, the other reasons why they were not enthusiastic about Uma’s “yatra” were that it could inflate her into a larger-than-life persona and rekindle the leadership question before the Assembly elections. Second, they said their experience was whenever Hindutva was given a veneer of “nationalism”, the agitation never jelled.

In the BJP’s view, Joshi’s “Ekta yatra” from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in 1992 to hoist the Tricolour in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk was a “fiasco”.

“Hindutva as pure Hindutva alone succeeds,” said a source, citing Advani’s Ram rath yatra and Narendra Modi’s post-Godhra “Gaurav yatra”.

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