Uma Bharti, BJP's chief ministerial candidate, has surely added a new dimension to the political scenario in Bundelkhand.
She may be contesting from Uttar Pradesh for the first time, but her Charkhari constituency in Mahoba has a long history in the UP politics scene. Polling will be held here in the fifth phase on February 23.
Although she was born in Tikamgarh, a neighbouring district in Madhya Pradesh, Charkhari was the place from where she started her long political journey and gave her first ever public speech.
Her candidature has hurt the Congress the most, which perceived her as a threat to the party -- perhaps rightly so.
Since day one, the war of words flew between the Congress 'Yuvraj' Rahul Gandhi and Uma.
When Rahul had called Uma an 'outsider' contesting elections in Bundelkhand, the saffron clad 'sanyasin' hit back saying that he should first look towards his mother Sonia, from Italy, and then talk about her.
Furthermore throwing a gauntlet at 'guru' Digvijay Singh and 'chela' Rahul, Uma reminded them how she had defeated the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and vowed to repeat her performance in UP as well.
Uma's candidature was a well planned strategy of the saffron party because the Bundelkhand region, especially Charkhari, happens to be dominated by the Lodhs, a caste which Uma belongs to.
Initially the Bundelkhand region was a stronghold of the BJP but the people shifted their loyalities to the BSP in the last Assembly elections by registering a victory on 16 out of the total 21 seats (the Congress won three and Samajwadi Party two Assembly seats respectively).
Charkhari was one of the princely states of the country and was founded in 1765 by Bijai Bahadur, who was a Rajput of the Bundela clan.
Former Chief Minister Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant was so attracted by the area that he fondly described it is as the Kashmir of Bundelkhand. It is said that the renowned tragedy queen of the silver screen, Meena Kumari, spent her childhood days there.
One of the most backward regions of the Mahoba district, Uma's entry has definitely hotted up the political environment as voters eagerly look forward to attending Uma’s election meetings in the Lodh dominated constituencies of Babina, Garoth, Mahrauni, Lalitpur, Raath, Charkhari, Mahoba and Hamirpur.
An intermediate school teacher in Mahoba, Ram Avtar did not hesitate in saying that if the people voted en masse for the BSP in the 2007 elections, the trend will change now as the people are once again looking for a change.
The president of the Bundelkhand Congress, Raja Bundela, said: "Uma Bharti's presence has definitely provided the much needed alternative to the people. Her candidature will largely contribute in helping the prospects of the BJP".
Charkhari was a reserve constituency since 1952 with two exceptions -- 1962 and 1967. But it has now become a general seat. Despite the fact that a section of people are optimistic of the sanyasin's victory, a large section of the minorities believe that it would certainly not be a cakewalk for the VIP candidate.
Mohd. Ramazan, 62 years, is still haunted by the images of Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya and readily blames the sadvi and her other leaders for the disaster. However the younger ones like Haneef Ahmed, 33 years, a social worker preferred to ignore the past and move ahead.
Regarded as a Lodh leader, Uma is pitted against another Lodha leader of her own community Anil Kumar Ahirwani, a candidate from the BSP. Her other two rivals are Samajwadi Party's Kaptan Rajput and Congress' Ramjeevan dada.
But the former BJP poster boy and chief minister Kalyan Singh, also a Lodh leader, says he's out to defeat Uma.
Singh appears fully geared up to settle his score with his old party. After quitting the BJP, he formed his own outfit the Jan Kranti Party. His party candidate Pawan Kumar is facing Uma Bharti in Charkhari.
If the gamble is high for the BJP in this region of Bundelkhand, the sadhvi's prestige is also at stake as her future political career hinges around this victory.