Thursday, March 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

RSS for change in NDA leadership
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Stung by the “Defencegate” expose the RSS, as the ideologue of the BJP, is increasingly veering round to the view that changing the leadership of the NDA government has assumed urgency.

The stand-off between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the RSS evidenced over the past six months appears to have reached a breaking point with the’s expose of murky defence deals.

Even as the cracks between the hawks and the doves in the BJP are widening on the crucial leadership issue, there is a strong section of opinion in the NDA that it is only Mr Vajpayee who can keep the disparate grouping from disintegrating.

The intense disquiet in the RSS about Mr Vajpayee summarily brushing aside the objectives of the Sangh Parivar has emboldened them to question his efficacy as the head of government. Sources in the RSS insist that the organisation has suffered a body blow and needs to refurbish its image that it is not backtracking on the Hindutva or other causes that it has espoused over the past 50 years.

RSS strategists have intense reservations about arguments that considering Mr Vajpayee’s stature he is the only leader who can apply the soothing balm and take all sections together in the prevailing environment within the NDA and the BJP in particular.

In any case, Union Home Minister L.K. Advani who is widely acknowledged as Mr Vajpayee’s successor, is believed to have firmly rejected such talk. Mr Advani made it clear forcefully that Mr Vajpayee should continue as the Prime Minister.

For all outward appearances the RSS is not unduly worried of being confronted with the worst case scenario of the BJP-led NDA government falling by the wayside due to allegations that corruption is all-pervasive in the present administration. The RSS is acutely aware that this is highly unlikely as the critical arithmetic is in favour of the NDA at present.

At its first Pratinidhi Sabha held in New Delhi last week, the RSS targeted the Prime Minister’s Office for attack and demanded that if the tapes are found to be true, all those found guilty should be punished.

Since the congregation of the RSS Mahashivir in Agra in October last year, its leadership has been unsparing in attacking the Vajpayee government for giving up the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, coming forward with a uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370 according special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The RSS has also been highly vocal and sharp in criticising the economic policies of the NDA government.

On the odd occasion the Prime Minister has undertaken a delicate balancing act brought to fore by his recent observation that construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is in keeping with national sentiments. That had evoked the ire of the Opposition as well as some constituents of the NDA like the DMK and the Samata Party as well as the Telugu Desam which is extending support to the Vajpayee government from outside.

The bottom line is that the RSS wants the liberal Mr Vajpayee to make way for a hardliner to assume the stewardship of the country. Whether the RSS succeeds in its gambit or is making these noises to strengthen its organisation which is losing its sheen among the impressionable youth remains to be seen.


PM non-committal on Mishra’s ouster
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is keeping the option of the resignation of his Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra open as a way out for resolving the present deadlock in Parliament.

In response to a question whether Mr Mishra should resign from his post, the Prime Minister said, “He is not holding any public office”.

Mr Vajpayee, who appeared amazingly relaxed, was evasive to many questions treating reporters’ questions in his usual light-hearted manner.

When asked again whether the Principal Secretary should resign, Mr Vajpayee, who was non-committal on the issue, said: “I am not saying that” and added “but they are demanding my resignation”.

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