A firebrand leader and Hindutva mascot, Uma Bharti has always hogged the limelight whether she was with BJP or out of it. This is the second time that the saffron clad leader, often referred to as 'sadhvi', has become a Union minister in an NDA government. Raised by Vijaya Raje Scindia of Gwalior, 55-year-old Bharti, who is a former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, became involved with the Bharatiya Janata Party at a very young age.
Her first electoral battle came in 1984 when she contested the Lok Sabha elections. Her first electoral victory in Lok Sabha polls came in 1989 when she won from Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. She retained it in 1991, 1996 and 1998. In 1999, she switched constituencies and won the Bhopal seat. In the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, she held various portfolios as Minister of State and Cabinet Minister, including that of Human Resource Development, Tourism, Youth Affairs and Sports.
A member of the UP legislative assembly, this time Bharti contested from Jhansi in UP and defeated her nearest rival from Samajwadi Party by a margin of nearly two lakh votes. Actively involved in the 'Ramjanmabhoomi' movement, she has been named in the Liberhan Commission report on the demolition of the Babri mosque at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Known for her fiery speeches, her association with the temple movement placed her prominently in the BJP alongside party veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
Bharti was anointed the Chief Ministerial candidate of the BJP for the 2003 Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. On the back of a fierce campaign based on a plank of development, and helped by her reputation as a Hindutva firebrand, she led the party to a three-fourth majority in the state assembly. In August 2004, after only a year in office, an arrest warrant was issued against Uma Bharti in connection with the 1994 Hubli riots, forcing her to step down as CM.
In November 2004, she had a public spat with Advani during a meeting at the BJP headquarters here. This led to her suspension from the party, which was revoked a few months later reportedly at the insistence of the RSS. As she continued to publicly defy the BJP high command, insisting that she replace Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Bharti was eventually expelled.
She floated her own political party, the Bharatiya Janshakti Party. She stated that her party followed the ideology of the RSS. But her outfit achieved little success.
She was re-inducted in the BJP in June 2011 and was tasked with reviving the party in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the assembly election in 2012.