She had all the ingredients to be the ‘next big thing’ of the BJP, yet she never really found her place in the party’s ‘Gen-Next’ brigade. Gifted with excellent oratory skills and an ability to judge the ‘pulse’ of the masses, Uma Bharti is the saffron party’s quintessential ‘infant terrible’. Her relation with the BJP is as melodramatic and full of twists as a Bollywood potboiler. However, the maverick sadhvi is back in the thick of things as the BJP’s saviour-in-chief for Mission UP 2012.
Uma’s biggest challenge in UP is to revive the BJP by consolidating its core vote-bank as well as try and break new grounds among the electorates. She brings with herself the much-needed energy and urgency in the election campaign for the BJP. In fact, all the headlines that the BJP has grabbed from Uttar Pradesh can be mainly attributed to Uma Bharti. Otherwise, UP elections would have been all about Mayawati versus Rahul Gandhi with a pinch of Mulayam Singh thrown in between.
BJP finds itself in a great fix in the politically crucial state of UP with its electoral fortunes declining steadily. There is a dearth of credible leadership in the state and it is in this regard that Uma Bharti comes across as a very pleasant option for the party. She is a proven crowd puller and her appeal amongst the backward class may just revive BJP in the state. Also, Uma’s projection as BJP’s in-charge in UP can galvanize some of the Hindu votes. The party has already made its intentions clear by promising cow to the poor and including Ram Temple issue in the manifesto. Also, there is a lot of slugfest over the issue of minority quota with Uma terming it as ‘an attempt that could lead to second partition of the country’.
With Mayawati still pretty much in command of her ‘socially engineered’ electoral base, Rahul Gandhi going full throttle in his attempt to revive Congress and Samajwadi Party leaving no stone unturned in wooing minority votes, BJP faces the possible embarrassment of finishing fourth in the elections. Uma Bharti not only needs to resurrect her party’s plunging fortunes but also urgently requires to send out a strong message to ‘critics’ who wrote her political obituary. Her detractors accuse her of being an ‘outsider’, someone who has come to UP only to perform an ‘assigned’ task. Also, the fact that she is not even the chief ministerial candidate of her party makes her job tougher. Uma needs to convince the common voter of UP that she is not just another ‘star campaigner’ who hops around in helicopter. She needs to build some confidence in the hearts of the people of Uttar Pradesh. And she also must realize that things have changed drastically since she hogged limelight in UP for her call to build the Ram Temple at Ayodhya.
Whether she succeeds in salvaging BJP’s pride in UP or not remains to be seen. Frankly, no one expects a miracle of sorts from the Sadhvi but yes, she is at least expected to put up a good fight. She has definitely come across as a breath of fresh air for the almost dead and buried BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The party, which had almost nothing new or exciting to offer and promise, now at least has a known and proven mass leader to spearhead its campaign.
Note- First of a series of articles on State Assembly Elections 2012.