The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big Two step in to cool Uma heat

New Delhi, Sept. 25: Atal Bihari Vajpayee said it with words and L.K. Advani will do so over a cup of tea.

The BJP's seniormost leaders have finally stepped in to douse the flames of ill will that nearly consumed the party following the stand-off between Uma Bharti and M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Uma is said to have alleged that party chief Naidu was out to scuttle her tiranga yatra by pitting it against Sushma Swaraj's Savarkar satyagraha and preventing Vajpayee from addressing her campaign's final meeting in Amritsar.

Vajpayee not only made it a point to go to Jallianwala Bagh by persuading the party to reschedule a programme he was to address but also called Uma a 'Devi' who had miles to traverse ahead of her.

The former Prime Minister's speech at the party headquarters on the 89th birth anniversary of Jan Sangh founder Deen Dayal Upadhyay was brought forward to 9 am to enable him to reach Amritsar.

His former deputy, Advani, will take his turn at rapprochement by bringing Uma and Naidu together over tea and snacks at his home tomorrow.

Later, BJP MPs and leaders would attend a screening of music videos of patriotic songs as a 'tribute' to Uma's 'spirit of sacrifice' exhibited when she 'renounced' the Madhya Pradesh chief ministership to 'honour the Tricolour'.

There was, however, a sense of relief in the party at the absence of Sushma, who left for Geneva today as part of a parliamentary team travelling with the Lok Sabha Speaker.

BJP sources said Naidu ' who was supposed to be furious with Uma for her insinuations and wanted to take 'action' against her ' was counselled by party elders to be 'large hearted'.

He was told that the leadership is firmly behind him, that there was no threat to his position as party chief and it was in the party's interest to bury the hatchet and work for the electoral challenges ahead.

Vajpayee and Advani have gone along with Naidu to the extent that Uma is not likely to be rehabilitated immediately with a post in the central organisation but may be asked to campaign in the Maharashtra elections and the others that follow.

Sources close to Naidu claimed that till last night he was preparing to take 'severe' action against Uma next week; that, at best, he might wait until the Maharashtra polls were over. But a section in the BJP felt that edging out Uma would dent the party's following among backward castes and that, the sources said, would be 'disastrous' before the Bihar and Jharkhand elections.

Uma's presence in these states might not cause an accretion of backward-caste votes but her sidelining would be used as a handle by the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav to propagate the view that the BJP was 'anti-backward caste'.

Kalyan Singh and Vinay Katiyar were the other OBC leaders who got a raw deal from the BJP.

That Naidu took Vajpayee and Advani's advice in the intended spirit was apparent when he told reporters today: 'There are no divisions, no differences and no issues. No such things (as reported in the media) are happening in the BJP.' Uma's future is 'bright', he added.

Earlier in the day, Vajpayee said comparisons between party programmes were inappropriate. 'No programme is small or big and neither are those who lead them. All are party programmes.'

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