» News » Did Uma Bharti walk into a trap?

Did Uma Bharti walk into a trap?

Last updated on: November 10, 2004 20:20 IST

It was a battle being fought in the media.

And fittingly, the finale was a battle royale in front of the television cameras, and a suspension that was first announced on TV. Clearly, the media is the message!

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti's suspension from the Bharatiya Janata Party raises an important question: was the BJP manipulating the media?

Also read: Uma Bharti suspended | First Look

Uma BhartiThe day began on a normal note with just one important task ahead: the meeting of the BJP office-bearers, a standard operating procedure whenever a new president takes over the party, as Advani did on October 27. But in an unprecedented move, he invited the media to hear and record his speech.

Advani wanted his speech to reach the rank and file of the party as soon as possible, a BJP official said, insisting that there was no other motive behind the invite.

But then, in another rare move, Advani publicly chastised Uma Bharti, along with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain, for speaking to the media about the disputes within the party.

Advani admitted that he did not like taking names but was constrained to do so given the situation.

As soon as he finished his speech, the media was asked to leave the hall. And even as the media began to make its way out, Uma Bharti stood up, seeking the right to reply to the charges.

She said that while Advani had taken her name, he had not mentioned the "names of some Rajya Sabha members who don't attend Parliament and spend the entire day talking to the press off the record".

She added that she did not speak to the media off the record as she was very busy.

But Advani was unwilling to listen. He insisted that the matter -- of BJP officials speaking off the record to the press -- was closed and asked her to sit down.

An incensed Uma Bharti replied that she would make her point and that Advani could take whatever action he deemed fit. She then walked out of the room and left the BJP office.

The entire drama, which left everyone shell-shocked, lasted barely five minutes.

An hour later, the BJP announced that she had been stripped off her rank as general secretary and suspended from the party's membership. Later, at the party's daily press conference, BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley refused to entertain questions about her suspension, except to say that the decision had been unanimous.

He said there was no question of someone proposing and another person seconding the motion to suspend Uma Bharti.

But sources said it was Advani who proposed taking stringent action against her.

Later, a BJP source said that the party leadership really had no choice. "Uma is no doubt a good leader but she is extremely impulsive and it was this impulsive streak that took over," the source said.

Advani, extremely upset with the ongoing battles in his party, had been determined to take strong action and thus send a clear message to everyone, the source added.

Some observers believe that Uma Bharti walked into a trap.

The very fact that Advani invited the media and then took her name was clearly a humiliation to which Uma Bharti, known to react strongly when hurt, was unlikely to take lying down.

Her reaction was along expected lines and it became easier for the party to suspend her after her rather public outburst.

The source said that with Uma going public with her comments over the past few days –- including abusing fellow leaders within the BJP -– it was really a matter of time before the bosses took drastic measures.

The source also said that the question of Uma Bharti returning to the party was not ruled out completely.

Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi