It was an election with a difference. Over 1,500 people cast their votes to decide their political future and that of their leader Prahlad Patel,the former Union coal minister,who had fallen out with Uma Bharati.
The ballot paper had three choices: should a new party be formed; should they go back to the BJP; or should they join the Congress or any other party.
The voting took place on Sunday when the members of the Bharatiya Janshakti queued up outside the Sindhi Dharamshala in Jabalpur. The exercise lasted for about three and a half hours,including the time taken to put an ink mark on the voters nails.
The votes were counted on Monday. The verdict: they should return to the BJP,the party they had left in November 2005 in the wake of Uma Bharatis expulsion.
Patel was then a close confidant of the Sadhvi but their differences began with Bharatis flip-flop over contesting the Gujarat Assembly elections. The two had not been on talking terms and their relations hit a low when Patel anointed himself as the president of the party.
During the recent elections in the state,there was no coordination between the two factions with Patel fielding several of his own candidates in his area of influence.
When there were rumours and there were many of Bharatis return to the BJP,Patel had maintained that he would not go back to the party because it had deviated from its core ideology. But differences with Bharati left him in the lurch and he floated an NGO saying he would continue to fight for saving minerals,water and forest among other things in the Mahakaushal region. The talk over his return to the BJP began when Patel attended Shivraj Singh Chouhans swearing-in at Bhopals Jamboree Maidan last month and met senior leaders like Pyarelal Khandelwal.
In her typical style,Bharti had responded with good riddance when she was asked about Patels return to their former party.
Sundays exercise was more of a face-saver for Patel,who could not have simply joined the BJP given his consistent stand that the party had lost its ideological moorings and that its leaders were power hungry.
Even on Monday,he maintained that the option to float a new party was still open. I had left the choice to them (supporters),they have chosen the BJP, he maintained. I will make up my mind in a day or two.
In either case,it had become clear that he had parted ways with the Janshakti because it was among the options. Patel had recently said that he would contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Though the BJP was yet to officially react,there is little hitch in his re-admission.