Many unhappy as Uma Bharati ends fast

BHOPAL, MAY 7. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Ms. Uma Bharati, ended this afternoon her seven-day fast in support of thousands of daily wage workers retrenched by the Madhya Pradesh Government. Her decision came after the Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh, told members of a special committee appointed by her this morning that there was no question of reinstating the retrenched daily wagers who had been appointed after January 1, 1989.

Ms. Bharati said though she would continue her agitation she was ending her indefinite fast on being persuaded by members of the committee specially set up by her. This committee had been given the mandate to hold a dialogue with the Government and decide the future course of action regarding the agitation.

The announcement that Ms. Bharati was ending her fast came as a rude shock to most of the retrenched daily wagers who had come here in scorching summer heat to join her protest at Mayur Park before proceeding to Delhi later today for holding a demonstration before the AICC president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi.

The members of a 200-strong contingent of daily wage workers from Badwani and Ujjain, were visibly crestfallen and some of them were in tears on learning that Ms. Bharati had abruptly called off her indefinite fast. When approached by this correspondent, the district president of the Badwani unit of the Madhya Pradesh Government Daily Wagers', Contingency and Muster-roll Employees Union, Mr. Gulab Chand Gupta, alongwith some of his supporters, strongly reacted to the manner in which Ms. Bharati had suddenly called off her fast after announcing only a few hours ago that her indefinite fast would continue. They said they had learnt a bitter lesson and accused Ms. Bharati of serving her political interests by compromising the cause of the daily wage workers. They even said ``Ms. Bharati should forget that we would ever again respond to her call.''

Ms. Bharati, however, said while addressing workers that the agitation for their cause would continue and invited them to her house for chalking out the next plan of action. Earlier during the day, Ms. Bharati had said that the AICC president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, should intervene and remove the Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh, just as she had done in the case of the Orissa Chief Minister after the Steins' murder incident.

Ms. Bharati had also issued an ultimatum saying that the retrenched daily workers who are now living in abject poverty and are being compelled to commit suicide would resort to direct action and cut all supply lines so that the family members of the high and mighty, including the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Ministers and bureaucrats are also left craving for milk, vegetables and power supply.

Ms. Bharati had said that the workers, who would be leaving for Delhi tonight to hold a demonstration before Ms. Sonia Gandhi, shall resort to direct action after two or three days when they return to Bhopal (while calling off her fast, she had however, indicated that the Delhi demonstration shall have to wait since the Congress(I) MLA, Dr. Kalpana Parulekar, who was to lead this demonstration, is presently admitted in a hospital here).

She had even gone to the extent of saying there will be chaos and lawlessness in the State as the retrenched workers would raid the houses and empty the refrigerators of those who are occupying positions of authority in the State to meet their food requirements.

Ms. Bharati was talking to newsmen after addressing a big rally of the retrenched daily wagers who had gathered here from different parts of the State to join her struggle for their cause.

Ms. Bharati, who had gone underground after addressing a press conference yesterday morning, appeared at Mayur Park here around 11.30 am shortly after the appointed hour and at the appointed venue to address the daily wagers's rally. Later she again continued her fast, which she ended a few hours later.