Sanyasin’s second innings: No return of a prodigal daughter

BJP’s attempt to make her step into Kalyan Singh’s shoes is fraught with political risks


Ajay Singh | January 20, 2012

The BJP has finally chosen Uma Bharti as the lead campaigner for Uttar Pradesh elections. But those who know the party’s internal dynamic would admit that her projection in UP as a leader has less to do with reviving the BJP’s fortune in the state and more to foreclose her option of meddling in Madhya Pradesh where polls are due next year.

Uma Bharti has never been a popular leader in UP. In the Hindi heartland, her popularity came from her fiery style of oratory when the temple-mosque politics was at its peak. In the post demolition phase, Uma Bharti could not attract the same level of attention even when the VHP tried to rake up the Kashi Vishwanath temple issue in 1994.

This is precisely why her influence was negligible in the state even in the 1996, 1998, 1998 Lok Sabha elections when the BJP formed the governments at the centre. In fact, Kalyan Singh was far more important an OBC leader in the Hindutva family than the sanyasin. But Kalyan Singh’s subsequent marginalisation and ouster from the party left the BJP without a leader who can claim to have pan OBC image.

The attempt to make Uma Bharti step into Kalyan Singh’s shoes (of the 1990s vintage), is fraught with serious political risks. First, the state’s political scenario has transformed drastically from the turbulent phase of mosque-temple politics of the 90s. Second, a leader pushed from the high pedestal could never be restored to the same exalted position. Kalyan Singh’s return to the BJP in 2007 elections proved it beyond doubt that his stature was reduced to a lodha rajput leader and this community forms less than one percent of the electorate. Incidentally, Uma Bharti belongs to the same caste.

Like Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti’s ouster and her six-year exile from the BJP is an unbridgeable hiatus in politics. She is desperate to reclaim the past glory without realising the fact that her image as a leader unwanted in her own party had sunk deep into the psyche of people. Her erstwhile charm as a fiery sanyasin giving a heady discourse on politics mixed with religion has no meaning for today’s audience eager to hear about development, computers, electricity, education and employment.

Though six months back she struck the right chord by emphasizing on cleaning the Ganga and approaching communities living on the riverside by undertaking a yatra, her attempts were scuttled by her detractors within the party. The situation has come to a pass and she was forced into a situation where she declared her intention to stay away from the election campaign.

There is no doubt that after her tantrums over induction of Mayawati’s former lieutenant Babu Singh Kushwaha into the party, she is now pacified with an offer to lead the campaign in UP.  Given the complex scenario in which the BJP has tied itself down in the state, she is all set rue this endeavour. Her adversaries have not only pinned her down in UP but also shut her all future options for Madhya Pradesh where she has some influence. Uma Bharti’s stint in UP is unlikely to be a return of the prodigal that she once was.



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