The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Caste card hope for Uma comeback

New Delhi, Dec. 4: Uma Bharti's return to the BJP is almost certain in the view of the need to project a backward caste face during the forthcoming Assembly elections, pressure from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as well as mediation by a swadeshi ideologue and a Rajya Sabha MP.

The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister's return to the BJP, which may also be prompted by the fear that she may 'defect' to the VHP, may take place by the end of the month when tempers cool down in the party.

A section of second-rung leaders of the BJP had opposed the move to reinstate Uma following the publication of 'in some sections of the press ' a confidential letter she is purported to have written to party chief L.K. Advani. Uma has claimed that the letter, which reportedly castigates the second-line leaders, is fake. The leaders had pushed for a 'cooling period' of 10-15 days.

Uma left for the Himalayas this evening after meeting Advani last night and obtaining an assurance of sorts that her return was on the cards. The BJP chief told her he would have to speak to senior leaders of the party and dispel whatever reservations they may harbour against her before formally reinducting her.

The first 'face-saver' in the letter row came from sources close to Advani who denied that he had received the missive in question. The sources said the revocation of Uma's suspension was under his 'active' consideration and could happen at the 'earliest' to put the chapter of indiscipline behind and get on with preparations for the Bihar Assembly elections.

The second note of assurance was sounded by Pramod Mahajan, the general secretary who was the prime target of Uma's attack.

In an interview to Star News, Mahajan said he had no complaint against her and would accept whatever decision Advani takes. 'I have no complaint against Uma Bharti. Only the party president has the right to take any decision regarding her suspension and we are with him on whatever decision he takes.'

Mahajan said there were no differences of opinion among the second-rung leaders, despite their 'different backgrounds and qualities'.

Arun Jaitley had clarified yesterday itself that he had no problems with Uma and had not threatened to resign as general secretary if she was brought back. A section of the press had reported that Advani's team of office-bearers had warned they would quit en masse if Uma's suspension was revoked. 'Within the next five or six months, the word indiscipline will not be in the party's dictionary,' Mahajan said.

S. Gurumurthy and Balbir Punj, Uma's well-wishers, also spoke to Advani on the merits of bringing her back to the fold. Gurumurthy and Punj are also counted among Advani's closest advisers.

One argument in favour of Uma's return is that it is important for Advani not to rub the RSS and the VHP the wrong way at this juncture. 'Few in the BJP share the degree of commitment she has to the Sangh ideology,' said a BJP leader.

Once the letter controversy looked like blowing out of proportions and her position vis-'-vis the BJP was likely to become vulnerable, Uma rushed to call on VHP international working president Ashok Singhal who was unsparing in his criticism of Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Another reason for Uma's likely reinduction is that out of the party she is 'far more embarrassing' than in it. 'Inside, she can be reined in and made party to all policy decisions,' said sources.

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