New Delhi, December 4: Union minister Uma Bharti will not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the senior BJP leader said in Bhopal on Tuesday, declaring that she would, instead, focus on the Ram temple and Ganga for the next one-and-half-years.
Uma Bharti is the second union minister after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to rule herself out of next year’s general elections.
Her announcement comes at a time when there is increasing demand from Hindu organisations to find a legislative solution to deliver on the demand to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Uma Bharti was one of the most visible faces of the Ram temple movement back in the nineties and was also charged by the CBI for the conspiracy to pull down the Babri Masjid. As a member of PM Modi’s cabinet, she was initially entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the water resources and Ganga rejuvenation ministry. But last year, PM Modi stripped her of the charge and handed out the relatively low profile drinking water and sanitation ministry.
Like foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti had cited medical reasons when she first spoke about the possibility to opt out of the 2019 elections.
“I am suffering from knee and back problems, and to recover, I will take some rest. I will not fight elections for the next three years,” she told reporters in Bhopal in February this year. She had then, however, underlined that her decision did not imply that she is exiting politics.
The union minister, who was Madhya Pradesh chief minister for a little less than a year in 2003-4, had last week said that her party does not have a patent on the Ram temple and called all parties to come together to build the temple in Ayodhya.
Hindu groups, including the BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have called for a law or an ordinance to facilitate the building of a temple at the disputed site. The RSS has also threatened a 1992-like campaign for its construction.
A section of Hindus believes the 16th-century mosque, Babri Masjid, was built over a temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram, whose birthplace is also considered to be at the site. The mosque was demolished by a mob of thousands in 1992, triggering a cycle of violence and riots across India.
Talk of the government considering an ordinance or a bill to construct a temple in Ayodhya has gained momentum after the RSS’ demand.
The dispute – among India’s most sensitive and divisive political issue – has slowly returned to the political centre stage over the past few months. The Supreme Court has turned down the Uttar Pradesh government’s request to expedite hearing the land title dispute case and pushed the hearing to January next year. (Courtesy: HT)