When Uma Bharti came incognito

HUBLI Dec. 7. Uma Bharti, who has just piloted her party to a resounding victory in Madhya Pradesh, also created a flutter in Karnataka nearly a decade ago.

The occasion was Independence Day, 1994. The agitation launched by a BJP front organisation for hoisting the national flag at the controversial Idgah Maidan had reached its crescendo. The BJP had announced its programme to hoist the flag at the maidan and the State Government, with M. Veerappa Moily as Chief Minister, was determined to prevent the same. S.G. Burman, the then Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order), who was specially deputed to handle the situation, had turned Hubli into a fortress of sorts and announced that "not a fly from outside will be allowed to enter Hubli for the purpose".

The BJP had invited Ms. Bharti, who was then the President of the All-India BJP Yuva Morcha, for the programme. The question was how Ms. Bharti would reach Hubli in view of the overwhelming police barricade and check-posts set up at all the entry points.

However, Ms. Bharti outwitted the police and managed to enter Hubli on that day stealthily. She started from Adoni in Andhra Pradesh after giving the slip to the security team which was tailing her and travelled by road to Hubli, via Bellary, Hospet, and Gadag.

She had discarded her usual saffron attire for a salwar kameez.

She was escorted by Krishna Reddy, President of the Andhra Pradesh BJP Yuva Morcha, Rajendra Gokhale of the Yuva Morcha, who is now Treasurer of the BJP State unit, and Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri, who is now the BJP MLA for Ankola. There were also two women workers of the Yuva Morcha in the car along with her. There was an anxious moment, when the car was stopped on the outskirts of Hubli and the police asked all of them to get out of the vehicle. But none recognised Ms. Bharti and they were allowed to proceed. This was on night before Independence Day. In Hubli, great care had been taken to lodge her for the night at a safe place.

Even as the police were claiming next day morning that they had prevented all the BJP VIPs from entering Hubli, Ms. Bharti was quietly chatting with presspersons at a place which was close to the residence of the former Deputy Home Minister, F.H. Mohsin, a Congressman. That she was arrested later on as she led a batch of workers towards the Idgah Maidan from the Ashok Nagar side, was, of course, another matter.

Her escapade haunted her for years, and the case booked against her for criminal offences dogged her even when she became a member of the Union Council of Ministers. At one stage, she was proclaimed an offender by the court when the summons sent to her was returned without being served and the police could not produce her in court.

It was only 2002 that the S.M. Krishna Government in Karnataka paid heed to a request made by Digvijay Singh, the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, to withdraw the case, according to Mr. Gokhale. The copy of the notification issued by the State Government withdrawing the case was filed before the election officers in Madhya Pradesh before Ms. Bharti filed her nomination papers for the just concluded elections.

On Wednesday, the day before the counting of votes, Ms. Bharti paid a visit to the State, which was kept a closely guarded secret, to call on her spiritual mentor, Vishwesha Tirtha of Pejawar Math, who initiated her into sanyas years ago. She has periodic meetings with her mentor and it is here that her Karnataka connection is a permanent one.

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