The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma back, as Arun deputy

New Delhi, May 28: Uma Bharti was “rehabilitated” in the BJP by being re-inducted as a member of the national executive and appointed a sah-prabhari (joint in-charge) for Bihar by party president L.K. Advani today.

Uma, who was out in the cold since July after she lost her job as the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, will oversee the Bihar Assembly elections along with general secretary Arun Jaitley, who is the prabhari (in-charge).

Last month, Jaitley had said in a TV interview that Advani had a “game plan” for Uma and that the last letter she wrote to him was on a “constructive” note.

Apparently, the “change of heart” came about after Uma publicly supported the appointment of Shivraj Singh Chauhan as Madhya Pradesh BJP president, assured him of her co-operation and virtually repented for her shenanigans by stating she would not hanker after a position of power.

Although her acolytes had hoped she would be made a general secretary ' two posts in that capacity are lying vacant ' BJP sources said Uma’s “rehabilitation” would be gradual.

“As of today, she has not been made a general secretary. What happens tomorrow or the day after, I cannot say,” said spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.

Although Uma has not exactly shared the best vibes with Jaitley, whom she accused of “de-briefing” the press against her, the Bihar assignment was seen as a move to “use” her backward-caste antecedents. BJP sources said the projected upper-caste polarisation in the NDA’s favour in the next election may result in a proportionate consolidation of the backward castes around the RJD if the “caste equations” are not properly worked out.

Uma is a Lodh-Rajput, a caste which is non-existent in Bihar. But sources claimed the sadhvi had transcended her image as a representative of the Lodh-Rajputs and had acquired a “pan backward-caste” identity because of the way she had opposed the women’s reservation bill and demanded a separate quota for the backward castes. The BJP hoped her “fiery” oratory would supplement Nitish Kumar’s appeal among the middle and upper classes as a “sober and responsible” leader. The NDA has decided to project Kumar, a backward-caste Kurmi, as its chief ministerial candidate.

Meanwhile, the BJP tried to explain away the embarrassment caused by Jaitley’s defence of Ketan Parekh in the Supreme Court as his “professional responsibility”.

Jaitley is Parekh’s counsel in a case involving the collapse of a co-operative bank, the Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank (MMCB), which went bust when Parekh failed to repay it Rs 1,135 crore. His action not only led to the MMCB’s collapse but also that of other cooperative banks as a result of which nearly 20 lakh depositors lost their savings.

His defence provoked protests from the Gujarat BJP as Jaitley was elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state. Another Gujarat MP from the Upper House, A.K. Patel, wrote to Advani demanding Jaitley’s resignation as MP if he wants to continue as Parekh’s counsel.

Sushma Swaraj, who briefed the press today, said: “The party’s view is that professional and political responsibilities are separate. Jaitley is a general secretary of the BJP but he is also a good lawyer. Someone may think there is a conflict of interests here but it is unprofessional for any lawyer to say he will not take a brief. It is not possible.”

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