`Have one set of rules for everyone'

Published : Dec 30, 2005 00:00 IST

Huffing and puffing her way through the cheering, slogan-shouting crowd, hugging a woman here, a child there, feeding a cow by the roadside, grabbing a mike to address a group of children, that is Uma Bharati, the expelled BJP leader, on her Ram-Roti Yatra. She is defiant and snappy, and has her forehead smeared with roli (red coloured powder) as usual. Unmindful of what lies ahead for her, she has hit the road with a gusto typical of her. Ask her why a sanyasin should take the road to rebellion for the sake of the chief ministerial chair, and she snaps back: "When did I ask to be made the Chief Minister. My fight is for principles, not for power, and the fact that I am a sanyasin makes it possible for me to take up this fight because I have no lust for power."

She says action should also be taken against L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the same offence: speaking out openly against her. "I have never spoken out openly against anyone but only replied to what they have said. When they speak out against me that is not indiscipline, but when I reply to them it becomes indiscipline," she said in an interview to Purnima S. Tripathi. Excerpts:

Why are you on this yatra?

My yatra is for Ram and roti and that is why I have called it the Ram-Roti yatra. It was planned a year ago, and L.K. Advani was to flag it off but he asked me to postpone it because some people in the party opposed it. In the changed circumstances I decided to start it immediately. I wanted to reinforce the point that the BJP has deviated from the real issues of Ram and roti, which are the issues that helped us to come to power. Once in government we forgot all about them.

But the perception now is that since you were denied the Chief Minister's post you resorted to this form of protest.

I never demanded the Chief Minister's post for myself. All I wanted was that the MLAs should be allowed to elect their leader. Shivraj does not have the support of the majority of the MLAs. Had he been elected by the MLAs I would have had no objection.

But the party says 154 MLAs supported him when the motion was put to vote in the legislature party meeting?

There was no motion to vote. They simply announced the decision and the MLAs were indirectly threatened with the anti-defection law in order to support him. Can anyone dare oppose in this situation?

But except for the fact that you yourself wanted to become the Chief Minister, what else do you have against Shivraj Singh Chauhan?

I have nothing against him. He is my elder brother and I wish him good luck. But the manner in which the four-five people sitting in Delhi conducted the entire affair is not proper. I am protesting against that. The Parliamentary Board has all the power to take a decision, but the announcement is made only after taking the MLAs' point of view. Here the process was reversed, the announcement was made in advance and the MLAs were merely supposed to attest it. This is against democratic norms.

But the BJP says your name was announced in a similar fashion?

My case was different. The Parliamentary Board did make the announcement but I had to pass the people's test, then only I became the Chief Minister.

Is it not strange for a sanyasin to take to the street just for the sake of a Chief Minister's post? Are you not supposed to be above these worldly concerns?

Because I am a sanyasin I can take up this fight, which is not for power but for principles. I am here to uphold democratic norms. In a democracy, a party's strength lies with the people. You espouse certain causes and people associate with you and vote you to power. But once you come to power you give up those causes. Then you are no longer leaders, you become hijackers. I want to ask those sitting in Delhi what has happened to our concepts of "suraj, swaraj and shuchita". These people who you see with me today have associated with the BJP for a certain cause and if you betray those causes you have no longer the moral right to lead these people. Those sitting in Delh, who have no connection with these people, fail to realise this. It is to highlight these issues that I am on the road today.

Now that you are outside the BJP, what next after this yatra?

Who says I am outside the BJP. What is the BJP? Is it those four-five people sitting in comfortable rooms in New Delhi? The real BJP is these lakhs of people and nobody can take me away from that BJP.

But is it not a fact that having revolted against the Parliamentary Board, which is the supreme party organisation, you have committed an act of indiscipline?

What is indiscipline? I always wanted a debate in the party on this. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani speak out openly against me that is not indiscipline, but when I reply to them it becomes indiscipline. This dual standard of behaviour will not work anymore. There has to be one set of rules for everyone.

Do you see a caste bias in all this?

It is for everyone to see. Even I have started feeling it now. Look at the Parliamentary Board structure: Atalji, Advaniji, Joshiji, Sushma Swaraj, Mahajan, Jaitley. They all represent only 10 per cent of India. Where is the other 90 per cent? Where is the Dalit, the OBC representative in this supreme body? Only a handful of people taking private decisions are now running the party.

Is it not ironic that things have come to this stage in a party that placed much emphasis on discipline, that called itself a party with a difference?

Our problem is we have not been able to keep pace with the expansion of our party. The party organisation failed to keep up with the party's base and that has created all these problems. That is what I have been saying all along: open up, expand, have one set of rules for everyone. There should be no place for individualistic politics. `System se chalo'.

But has it not isolated you now?

I am not isolated. Those four-five people have been isolated but they are not able to realise it at the moment.

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