20 January, 2021

Uma Bharati, BJP Vice-President

Faith-tinged politics never found a more tangible—and volatile—embodiment than the saffron sanyasin. In her second coming, she retains an unpredictable puissance.

Illustration by Sorit
Uma Bharati, BJP Vice-President

Few political graphs can match the highs and lows that have marked the journey of the fiery sanyasin. ‘Volatile’ has always been her middle name. In just a decade, she saw it all. Post-Ayodhya glory as the “giant-slayer” who ended Digvijay Singh’s decade-long reign with an unheard-of two-thirds majority. A sedate Union cabinet stint. Dramatic, petulant ego fights. Polit­ical destitution. And the unflattering epithet of “rehabilitated neta”, after a difficult ghar vapasi.

It took the BJP six long years to forgive Uma Bharati’s many public rebellions. The first was in 2004, against state rival Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was the natural choice for CM when an arrest warrant was issued against Uma in the Hubli case. Then came the shocking televised tantrum against ‘loh purush’ L.K. Advani—after his Jinnah turn. That earned her a year-long suspension, showcauses and finally, when the stormy petrel wouldn’t be calmed, an expulsion. During her vanvas, she tried it all: invoke Ram (without again offering...



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