Once a fierce leader, a mighty force to reckon with, Uma Bharti has resorted to stone pelting at a liquor store to get noticed.
Earlier this week, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader vandalised a liquor shop in Bhopal. A video posted by her showed Bharti breaking the liquor bottles by throwing a rock at them. A day later, she wrote to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan explaining that she carried out the act to protect the "honour" of women in the area. The BJP leader has been demanding a prohibition in the state.
The former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh – the force that ousted the Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government in 2003 – Uma Bharti has travelled long from being a chief minister to being someone battling just to stay 'relevant'. What’s the reason behind her theatrics and what’s her endgame?
But First, What Led to Uma Bharti's Fall?
Known for her independent nature and 'manmarzi' personality, Bharti's rise during the 2003 elections was beyond comparison. She led a staunch campaign against the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, forcing a decade-long rule to end.
The Congress has been out of power in Madhya Pradesh since then – except for the short stint in 2018.
Actively involved in the 'Ram Janmabhoomi movement,' Bharti took over the chief minister's office in 2003, only to be forced to resign merely a year later due to an arrest warrant against her in the Hubli riots case that dated to 1994.
A few months later, she was seen in a spat with her almost 'guru' LK Advani publicly, which led to her suspension from the party over 'indiscipline.' She later formed her own party, Bharatiya Janshakti Party, which, however, tasted little success.
She floated back into the BJP in June 2011 and was tasked to strengthen the party in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2012 elections.
“Uma Bharti thought she won the elections in 2003, but the more dominant factor was anti-incumbency against Digvijaya Singh. Nevertheless, it was her face on the posters, and when she was forced to step down, she couldn’t swallow the betrayal. She lost it, called out names, fought off, and gradually as the BJP grew stronger, her voice and challenges were not able to penetrate the Central leadership.”A senior journalist from MP, requesting anonymity
Her charm then started fading. There were several incidents of defaming the party, stepping out of party line, and criticism, among other things. With the rise of Narendra Modi and his confidants in Delhi and the successful recurring of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in MP, Bharti was reduced to a mere name.
Uma Bharti's Recent Outburst Is ‘Cry for Attention’
"Uma said that she wouldn’t contest elections in 2019 and the BJP ‘okayed’ it. There was no round of talks or appeasement efforts from the BJP. It was as if nobody cared and was okay with whatever she was doing unless it was really harming the party in any way.”Another journalist wishing not to be named
"But she could never be away from politics. Amidst all her sadhvi dress-up and her religious display, what has been her elixir and poison is ‘politics.’ She was always the one to act first, think later and that has harmed her the most," the journalist added.
Sources close to Bharti claim that she has been trying to push a public issue, such as prohibition, with the "purest of intention". However, things didn’t go her way as always, and in her frustration, she carried out "the whole stone-pelting incident last week."
“Uma is hungry for the political limelight and she has been devoid of it since long. She once had everything she could hope for and was going to get more. But now she has been exiled and sidetracked. The pain and longing have been depicted so many times in her speeches and action,” sources said.
Rising Insecurity as the BJP Flourishing With Fresh Strong Contenders?
A few among the BJP feel that Uma Bharti’s sense of insecurity has risen over the past few years. With the advent of various new and strong contenders such as Narottam Mishra and Bhupendra Singh in the state BJP, Bharti’s breathing space has shortened.
“Earlier she was like a chirpy, moody person with a loud mouth but loved by almost all the elders. Now that the elders in power have changed, the new line of leaders has stood up and stood up they have strongly. There’s hardly anyone left to deal with Uma’s tantrums.”Another MP-based journalist
“Gone are the days when she could spar with Advani, be punished (suspended), could even make a new party, and get re-inducted into the party. Today the top leadership is more determined than ever to keep the power and they need performers with more ‘yes sir’ spirit than rebellious performers. Uma has to change her stance if she intends to have any future in today’s BJP,” the journalist added.
Why No Crackdown on Bharti?
Uma Bharti has been crying foul for over a decade and her guardians (the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the RSS, and the BJP) have ignored her. Mostly because somewhere they know that her actions have always been self-destructive in nature, experts said.
“She used to call Shivraj Singh Chouhan ‘bachcha chor’ (child thief) implying that the CM position of MP is her child and Shivraj has stolen it from her. She still says, ‘Sarkar maine banayi chala koi aur raha hai’ ('I formed the government and someone else is running it') and the rhetoric continues. She hasn’t recovered from the 2004 debacle till now; that much is evident."An RSS affiliate
"However, why the party or the RSS aren’t coming down on her has two aspects. The more important one is that they don’t want to give her the space and make her a victim in the eyes of the public by responding to her drives like the ‘alcohol ban.’ Second, but an equally important aspect is that she still has sway with the Lodhi-Kirar community in central India, especially in Madhya Pradesh, which the party wouldn’t want to disturb just to satisfy some egos,” he added.
Bharti is a Lodhi caste OBC, and the BJP has promoted OBC politics since she came to power in 2003.