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Uma Bharti: Sanyasin to chief minister
December 08, 2003 18:23 IST
Last Updated: December 08, 2003 18:33 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party's return to power in Madhya Pradesh sounds very much like a bedtime story.
The party was in exile for 10 years while a (former) raja was at the helm. A sanyasin was asked to end the rule of the raja. She succeeded, banished the raja into exile and took over the reins of the kingdom.
From the world of sadhus and sants to the corridors of power, via the Ram temple movement, it has been a momentous journey for Uma Bharti, the fiery sanyasin who has become the first woman chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
The 44-year-old stormy petrel was born in a backward Lodh caste peasant family at Dunda village in Tikamgarh district.
She was initiated into public life at a young age when she came in contact with the late BJP leader Vijayaraje Scindia and leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who were impressed by her oratorical skills.
At the age of 16, she embarked upon a nationwide tour, which was followed by visit to 55 countries in an effort to broaden her intellectual horizon. She developed a strong inclination towards spiritual pursuits in her childhood and achieved fluency in religious epics, including the Gita and the Ramayana, which helped her during the Ram temple movement.
The saffron-clad leader entered active politics in the 1980s and became vice-president of the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP in 1988.
Though her maiden attempt to enter the Lok Sabha in 1984 failed, she made it five times once the Hindi heartland got intertwined with the Ram temple issue.
If the movement raised her profile and made her a national leader, it also brought upon her a fair share of controversies.
Her presence in Ayodhya on the day of the Babri Masjid's demolition and her purported remarks allegedly egging karsewaks to bring down the disputed structure: Ek dhakka aur do (give one more push), landed her in trouble. She has since denied the remarks.
Her staunch Hindu image also gets her into trouble. During the run up to the elections, she was reportedly snapped offering a cake at a Hanuman temple. She was forced to clarify that it was an Indian sweet dish and not Western junk food.
An avid reader of books on religion, philosophy and science, her supporters adoringly refer to her as didi (elder sister).
She first made it to Parliament from Khajuraho, in backward Chhatarpur district, in 1989 and retained it in the 1991, 1996 and 1998 elections before switching over to Bhopal constituency in 1999.
She held the portfolio of human resource development, sports and coal in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government before being assigned the task of leading the BJP campaign in the December 1, 2003 assembly elections.
She fought her maiden assembly election from Bada Malehra constituency in Chhatarpur district. Her brother Swami Prasad Lodhi held the seat in the outgoing House.
Known for her oratory, she is also a prolific writer who penned Swami Vivekananda, Manav ek bhakti ka nata and Peace of mind.
According to her, Hindutva and development complement each other. "When you talk of development, the issue of Hindutva automatically comes to the fore as it is linked to Ram Rajya, which speaks of good governance without any discrimination," she had once said once.Bharti has said her priority would be to address the problems of power crisis, bad roads, water shortage and unemployment.