The new U in UP

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Updated: Jan 24 2012, 07:53am hrs
Among the many things written about Uma Bharati is a pamphlet issued by one of her many supporters. In it, an uncharacteristically pensive Bharati is seen sitting by the banks of a river and the text is about the three people she is inspired from. The first is Lord Hanuman, the second is Maratha King Shivaji and the third is Latino revolutionary Che Guevara.

Just what these three have in common is anybodys guess. Despite belonging to Indias Right, Bharati continues to hold Latin Americas revolutionary pin up in high esteem. In a TV interview recently, she also likened her move to Uttar Pradesh politics from nearby Madhya Pradesh to Ches move from one country in Latin America to another fostering revolution. Frankly, the only revolution inspired by that statement could be Ches reaction in his grave, but one of Indias most enigmatic woman politicians has made a comeback of sorts, whether through Che or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

While a lot has been written about Bharatis rise and fall within the BJP, what she did out in the cold has been largely brushed aside. Those are, however, the years when she learnt that despite her considerable achievements in politics, and her charisma, she required the BJPs organisational muscle. Her party, the Bharatiya Janshakti Party, lost miserably in elections in Madhya Pradesh and she could never quite sever ties with the Sangh Parivar. To her credit, Bharati has been candid enough to admit that.

By fielding her in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is hoping for some Hindu-Muslim polarisation, and also hoping to gain the support of the OBC Lodh community in Uttar Pradesh after it lost Kalyan Singh.

In the first elections held after the Ayodhya verdict, will that happen, though Is she all that

Bharati was born in a humble Lodh family in Bundelkhand, an area which is backward, feudal and patriarchal. A backward woman would have as much a chance at social mobility in that society as an upstart Yankee at Tara. But Bharatis life is nothing if not made up of serendipity and magical breaks. A child prodigy in the oral traditions of reciting the Puranas and the Upanishads, she was taken under the wing of Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia and brought up under the intimidating shadow of royal patronage in Gwalior. Her adulthood coincided with the flowering of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. With her oratory, audacity and fiery rhetoric she zoomed to the top of BJPs upper caste, largely male hierarchy. It was also the time of social engineering within the BJP, with fellow Lodh Kalyan Singh being promoted in Uttar Pradesh.

She conquered Madhya Pradesh convincingly, but then met her denouement. As an administrator, she failed to pull together, and her fights with party bosses and complaints about the way she ran Madhya Pradesh, an important stronghold of the Sangh Parivar, saw her exit from there and later from the party.

Her years outside the party fold have been lonely. Once supported by the party machinery, she depended on amateur supporters for sage political and ideological counsel. Even Govindacharya, her long-time confidant was unable to steer that ship to safe harbour. She performed penance, both physically (washing the steps of Badrinath temple) and politically (by making overtures to previous detractors, like Arun Jaitley).

A chastened Uma now spews vitriol only against political rivals outside the party.

As beginnings go, she is on sound ground. The BJP, even to its most enthusiastic supporters, was not likely to do well in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. Bharati at least has brought the spotlight on them, away from the more telegenic youth leaders Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav. Lets face it, Bharati is more fun to watch and hear than either Gandhi or Yadav.

Will she be able to pull off a creditable performance for the party in the state and help it escape the ignominy of coming fifth in a field of five While her life is a testimony to amazing twists and turns, could this be a little beyond her

Her life amid the detritus of the Ayodhya movement has not been a happy one, and she appears anxious to start a new chapter in her political life. Despite being called an outsider to Uttar Pradesh, Bharati is perhaps the best metaphor to describe the dilemmas of this election. In the absence of high-decibel emotional issues, in a post Mandal-Mandir world, just which way will Uttar Pradesh vote Bharati should perhaps let go of Che and read up on Bill Clinton instead, the former US president being the ultimate comeback kid of politics.

nistula.hebbar@expressindia.com