Friday, October 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Is it Jaswant after Vajpayee?
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 19 — “The after-Vajpayee-who” debate today took a curious turn as the name of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh figured along with that of the Prime Minister and other top leaders in one of the official communiqués of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Eyebrows went up in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, when in departure from tradition, the name of the External Affairs Minister was seen in the official list of party leaders who have been despatched a copy of the official note of the President and Conveners of the party’s frontal organisations.

In the backdrop of the raging debate on “who after Vajpayee”, senior leaders of the BJP were surprised to read Mr Jaswant Singh’s name in today’s press communiqué.

While a subtle battle over the control of the party machinery is going on between the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, projection of Mr Jaswant Singh by the party under the leadership of Mr Bangaru Laxman is being seen as a firm indication of future developments.

The copy of the much delayed list of the presidents and conveners of the frontal organisations of the BJP which was announced today, is being sent to Mr Vajpayee, Mr Advani, the Human Resource Development Minister, Dr M.M. Joshi, a former President, Mr Kushabhau Thakre and Mr Jaswant Singh by name. All the central office-bearers and state presidents and office secretaries are also being sent a copy each.

While Mr Jaswant Singh’s projection was in the process of being understood, a senior party leader, Mr J.P. Mathur, put the blame on a section of the media, opposition parties, and some people outside the country for trying to raise an irrelevant issue as to who would succeed Mr Vajpayee.

Mr Mathur, who is considered close to Mr Advani, said in his typically nonchalant manner that as far as the BJP was concerned, Mr Advani was next to Mr Vajpayee in the party.

In the same breath, Mr Mathur hastened to add that nobody was equal to Mr Vajpayee. He said that the question was similar to that in the early sixties and late fifties of the last century as who would succeed Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Prime Minister was in fine health and there was no need to discuss his successor, he asserted.

In a related development, the BJP President, Mr Bangaru Laxman, today said that party’s agenda was different from that of the RSS. The statement has only added to the prevailing confusion in the party over the BJP’s fluctuating line.

In a statement issued at a press conference in Gurdaspur and later released to media at Delhi, Mr Laxman said:” I wish to state categorically that what Shri Sudarshanji had said about Christians and Muslims in India are the views of the RSS. They do not represent the views of the BJP. The RSS chief is entitled to his views and it is up to the different sections of our diverse society to react to these views, as they deem right.”

Mr Laxman has tried to balance his act by blaming the party’s political adversaries for the controversy. Mr Laxman said that the BJP, however, is neither obliged nor willing to join the debate on terms set by our political adversaries. “Their efforts to use the RSS Maha Shibir will not work. The RSS is a patriotic organisation and we hold it in high esteem. But this does not mean that we agree with it on every issue. The BJP follows its own agenda, which is significantly different from that of the RSS”, the BJP President said.

The party’s Senior Vice-President, Mr K. Jana Krishnamurthi, and the General Secretary, Mr Narendra Modi, have been appointed the two spokespersons of the BJP, a party’s press note said here.

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