Uma Bharti, born on May 3, 1959, is an Indian politician known for her dynamic career in politics, her association with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and her role as the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Her life story is marked by remarkable achievements, strong convictions, and active participation in the political landscape of India.
Uma Bharti's journey in politics began at a young age when she joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In 1984, she contested her first parliamentary election but was unsuccessful due to a surge in support for the Indian National Congress following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Undeterred, Bharti continued her political journey.
In 1989, she achieved her first electoral victory by winning the Khajuraho Lok Sabha constituency. Her popularity and electoral success continued in the subsequent elections held in 1991, 1996, and 1998, where she retained her seat. In 1999, she switched constituencies and emerged victorious in the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, further solidifying her presence in the Indian political landscape.
Uma Bharti's dedication and influence in the BJP led to her appointment to various cabinet-level positions. During the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, she held portfolios in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Tourism, Youth Affairs and Sports, as well as Coal and Mines. Her multifaceted roles allowed her to contribute significantly to the development and progress of the nation.
When Narendra Modi assumed office as the Indian Prime Minister in 2014, Bharti was appointed as the Minister for Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, a role she served until September 2017. Her tenure was marked by efforts to revitalise the Ganga River and promote water resource management.
Uma Bharti played a pivotal role in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the 1980s and 1990s, organised by the Vishva Hindu Parishad. She, alongside prominent leaders like L. K. Advani, was a major figure in the movement. Her fiery speeches and fervent support for the cause helped the movement gain momentum.
Bharti was present during the tumultuous events that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. She was later indicted by the Liberhan Commission, which probed the incident, for inciting a mob to violence. Despite these charges, she did not express regret for her involvement in the event and stated her willingness to accept "moral responsibility" for the demolition. She also acknowledged the political benefits reaped by the BJP from the incident.
In April 2017, the Supreme Court of India reinstated a criminal conspiracy case against Uma Bharti and other BJP leaders in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition. She reaffirmed her stance and called on the BJP to accept its responsibility for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
Uma Bharti's political journey also led her to become the Chief Ministerial candidate for the BJP in the 2003 Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. She conducted a vigorous campaign focused on development and her reputation as a Hindutva firebrand. Under her leadership, the BJP achieved a sweeping victory, winning 173 out of 230 seats in the legislature. She was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Madhya Pradesh.
In August 2004, Uma Bharti's political career took a turn when an arrest warrant was issued against her in connection with the 1994 Hubli riots, leading to her resignation from the post of Chief Minister. A falling-out with the BJP and a desire to replace Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh led to her expulsion from the party.
Following her expulsion, Bharti formed her own political party, the Bharatiya Janshakti Party. She claimed to follow the ideology of the RSS and stated that she had the support of Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the RSS. However, her new party faced limited political success.
Uma Bharti made a triumphant return to the BJP on June 7, 2011. She was entrusted with the task of revitalising the party in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2012 state assembly elections. In those elections, she was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly from the Charkhari constituency. Her leadership was further acknowledged when she was appointed as party vice-president, part of a team created to guide the BJP through the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Bharti was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Jhansi constituency, defeating her opponent from the Samajwadi Party. She held several ministerial positions, including Minister for Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, and later, the Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Uma Bharti's political career has been marked by her dedication to the principles she holds dear. In late 2011, she threatened Walmart with arson when the Indian government decided to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. Her stance reflects her unwavering commitment to her beliefs, whether in politics or personal life.
Uma Bharti's remarkable journey through the dynamic world of Indian politics showcases her resilience, unwavering commitment to her convictions, and her influential role as a leader. Her story is a testament to the power of determination and the ability to make a lasting impact on the political landscape of India.