Comeback travails

Uma Bharti's mission impossible


Ajay Singh | June 7, 2011

In politics, consistency has never been a great virtue. If Uma Bharti’s re-induction in the BJP is any indication, the party is all set to launch her as the face of its campaign in Uttar Pradesh polls, ignoring the fact that she has rubbed the party the wrong way in every conceivable manner.  When BJP president Nitin Gadkari shared the dais with the mercurial sadhvi, he must have been acutely conscious of her acts of indiscretion.

But politics is the art of managing the impossible. And Gadkari is going to assign the most impossible task to Bharti: leading the BJP in the upcoming UP polls. Nobody knows it better than Gadkari that the faction-ridden BJP’s state unit was demoralised to the extent of giving up the race in the country’s most populous state. There was no BJP leader who was willing to don the mantle of the chief campaigner which ultimately fell on Uma Bharti.

Rajnath Singh, who considers himself to be the tallest BJP leader of Uttar Pradesh, has resisted all attempts by Arun Jaitley and Gadkari to foist him on the UP battlefront. A shrewd leader, Rajnath Singh was aware of the fact that the party’s rout in the forthcoming election would seal his political career for good. This will put paid to his prime ministerial ambition which he has been nursing since he became the BJP’s national president.

At the same time, Rajnath Singh was also aware of his limitations. Though he led the elections in the past three elections, the party’s decline was accelerated instead of being arrested. On the other hand, it indeed requires a lot of perseverance and sagacity to take on Mayawati whose support base remains intact even in the most troubled times. Realising his limitations, Singh preferred to retain his national stature sans his political base and rebuffed the central leadership’s attempt to field him in UP.

But Singh was not alone in surreptitiously withdrawing from the electoral battlefield. Kalraj Mishra, yet another UP stalwart, is very keen to lead the campaign on the ground that he would win over Brahmins to the BJP’s support base. Though Mishra is keen, there is a great degree of scepticism among the central leadership given his image as a weak and ineffectual leader. The BJP’s state unit chief Sureya Pratap Sahi is not considered to be a man of consequence even within the party’s state unit.

The party’s central leadership has re-inducted Uma Bharti in this political background where the party’s own stable is devoid of leaders willing to take on Mayawati. Despite Uma Bharti’s tenacity in picking up challenges or fights, Uttar Pradesh will be an insurmountable political challenge. The most daunting task for her will be to revive a moribund party apparatus and rejuvenate the cadre which is quite disgusted with the party’s state leaders. At every step, she will face challenges from within.

But like the central leadership Uma Bharti has few options in view of the fact that her political career atrophied ever since she left the BJP six years ago. She did not have any impact in her home state Madhya Pradesh where her one-time protégé Shivraj Singh Chauhan outwitted her and retained his stronghold. For the past three years, she has been keenly waiting for her chance to get re-inducted in the BJP. But her every move was thwarted by a battery of opponents ranging from Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj to Rajnath Singh and Shivraj Singh Chauhan.  Given her skills in mass-mobilisation and oratory, the BJP’s front-ranking younger generation was always rattled by her. Her temperamental behaviour was cited by her detractors as a major obstacle to her re-induction in the BJP.

Yet, the party chose to bring her back because it desperately needed to project a face which could be given a bad name in the event of the party’s decimation. Uma Bharti will see a near certain eclipse of her political career should she fail in the polls. But even if she succeeds in delivering UP to the BJP, she is unlikely to return like a prodigal daughter. Her angel guardians in the central leadership will ensure her marginalisation further.



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