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Posts Tagged ‘Mayawati

 

The BJP swept the February-March, 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The instant reaction of BSP supremo Mayawati to her party’s miserable performance  in Uttar Pradesh was that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were manipulated. Soon the Samajwadi Party and AAP leaders joined Mayawati’s outcry. Even some Congress leaders in Uttarakhand also started talking about EVM manipulation. Meanwhile, a discussion on the fragmentation of non-BJP votes in Uttar Pradesh had also started (the BJP got so many seats with a vote share of less than 40 per cent while the combined vote share of BSP and SP was over 44 per cent plus six per cent of the Congress share).

The subject of EVM manipulation has been cropping up almost from the time EVMs were introduced.  A sort of campaign on this issue was launched by then Madhya Pradesh Congress President Suresh Pachouri after the 2008 Assembly elections which had returned BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the second term. A distraught Pachouri had threatened to expose EVM manipulations with the help of his “friends in the UK and the US”.

Before Pachouri could carry out his threat, Lal Krishna Advani jumped in the fray after the BJP lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and his dream of becoming the Prime Minister was shattered. He demanded discontinuation of EVMs and going back to the printed ballot papers. Advani’s demand was supported by the leaders of various parties like the AIADMK, CPI (M), Janata Dal (S) and the Lok Janshakti Party. Advani had the support of a bureaucrat also. Former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal had surfaced to claim that he knew a secret code in the EVM, through which the machine could be programmed to transfer every fifth vote to a particular candidate. Petitions were filed in courts on the fallibility of EVMs, one of the most vocal petitioners being BJP’s Kirit Somaiya.

There was so much noise in the country that the Election Commission felt it had to do something. In August 2009, the Commission randomly obtained 100 EVMs from 10 States (Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh). The Commission invited political leaders, petitioners and other critics of EVMs and also made the media announcement that the EVMs would be kept in the Commission office for a specified period and anyone could come and show how these machines could be manipulated. No one did. The EVM bogey, though, has one merit. It keeps occupied the politicians who have been defeated in the elections and have nothing else to do at the moment.

 

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The day Uma Bharati’s candidature for Charkhari in Uttar Pradesh was announced, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had a long sigh of relief and his coterie held a quiet celebration in the evening. The next day the chief minister called up the Sadhvi and promised to go over there and campaign for her — which he eventually did.

Uma Bharati was readmitted into the BJP — the RSS wanted it — in the face of stiff opposition from Chauhan and State party president Prabhat Jha. BJP president Nitin Gadkari had assured the Madhya Pradesh leaders that the services of the Sadhvi would be used in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and that she would keep away from Madhya Pradesh. Contrary to her firebrand image, Uma Bharati followed Gadkari’s directive to the letter, not saying anything about Madhya Pradesh. Whenever she opened her mouth, it was to express concern on the growing pollution of the river Ganga or to criticise the Gandhi dynasty or Mayawati. (Incidentally, before the last Lok Sabha elections she had publicly lent her support to Mayawati as the next Prime Minister).

File Photo: In her better days Uma Bharati playing Holi

 

After her return to the BJP, she did visit Madhya Pradesh a few times but only to pray at the temples in Ujjain and Orchha or to perform some religious function at her home. She made these visits in an extremely low key, completely avoiding the media and keeping her mouth shut about the affairs in her home State.

Uma’s finagled lack of interest in Madhya Pradesh had not allayed the apprehension of Chauhan and his supporters in the party who were rather worried about the post-Uttar Pradesh poll scene. Chauhan’s guilty conscience may have to do something with his feeling of insecurity vis-a-vis Uma Bharati.

After her court ordeal at Hubli was over, Uma Bharati demanded back the post of chief minister from Babulal Gaur whom she had “entrusted” it in the wake of the non-bailable warrant issued by the court against her. Gaur was unwilling to quit; the BJP high command was reluctant to effect yet another change within a year without any ostensible reason. Besides, some among the BJP’s Central leaders did not want her back as chief minister because they were not happy with her style of functioning earlier.

Uma became restive. So did a majority of the ruling party MLAs who supported her. They threatened to launch an agitation, and even meet the Governor to collectively demand his intervention. The situation in the BJP was becoming volatile. Chauhan, then the State BJP president, took it upon himself to douse the flames by persuading the party high command for an amicable change. He did persuade the BJP high command for a change, but in his own favour. Uma Bharati and Babulal Gaur were dumbstruck when they came to know of this.

Uma Bharati walked out of the BJP Legislature Party meeting in which Chauhan was ‘elected’ leader; she embarked upon a Ram-Roti yatra throughout which she used the most scurrilous language against the BJP leaders, Lal Krishna Advani downwards. She was expelled from the party and then she formed her own Bharatiya Jana Shakti (BJS) which turned out to be a miserable experience for her.

While her hard feelings against others gradually softened, she had not been able to forgive Chauhan whom she had described as ‘bacha chor’ (child lifter). She had felt, and claimed publicly, that the people of the State had given the mandate to her to form the government in 2003 and that this government had been like her own child and now this “bacha chor” had snatched it. She had constantly vowed to root out the Chauhan government which, she said, was embroiled in rampant corruption; the children were dying from malnutrition and other diseases and there was no law and order in the State.

 So terrified had Chauhan been of Uma Bharati that he would miss an appointment whenever there was the possibility of his crossing the path with her. He was said to be suffering from nightmares with the constant talk of Uma Bharati’s return to the BJP. As late as November last, Uma Bharati’s rule in Madhya Pradesh was described as symbolising the frenzied and uncontrolled politics in BJP; it was in the main article written by the heavily paid guest editor in ‘Madhya Pradesh Sandesh’, the official monthly of the Madhya Pradesh government.

Chauhan felt relaxed for the first time only when Uma Bharati’s name was announced as one of the candidates for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. Her victory, so went the reasoning in the Chauhan camp, would keep her occupied in Uttar Pradesh and her defeat would make her too demoralised to remain a threat. A beaming Chauhan shared the dais with the Sadhvi at a rally in Mahoba in support of the latter, called her his younger sister and wished her a resounding victory in Charkhari.

The exact status of Uma Bharati in the party in the context of Madhya Pradesh may be clear only after the Uttar Pradesh elections. If the BJP comes third or fourth, as is being perceived now, and she wins, she will have only a minor role to play as one of the MLAs there. The politics within the political parties is more complex in Uttar Pradesh than in Madhya Pradesh. She will have to fight hard for gaining every inch of space. Besides, even though her body will be there, her ‘atma’ will always be in Madhya Pradesh. How she synchronises the functions of the two will have to be seen. The BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh are keenly observing her every move.


November 2017
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“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”, originally attributed to 19th-century French writer Honoré de Balzac.

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