Thursday, June 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Reshuffle around July 1: PM

New Delhi, June 26
As Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tonight announced that he would reshuffle his Cabinet around July 1, speculations mounted on the fate of Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s continuance in the portfolio and the possible entry of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.

“It (reshuffle) will be around July 1”, Mr Vajpayee told reporters on the sidelines of a function where Home Minister L.K. Advani’s “A Prisoner’s Scrap Book” was released by him.

Apparently free from the pressures of dealing with a volatile situation in the context of Indo-Pakistan tensions a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister is expected to undertake the exercise restructuring his Council of Ministers keeping in mind the performance of various incumbents.

Apart from inducting members of his allies like the Trinamool Congress and the PMK, Mr Vajpayee is likely to change the portfolios of some of his ministers. In this context, continuance of Mr Sinha on the present post has come under a cloud with BJP hardliners said to be favouring a change.

The names of Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and HRD Minister M.M. Joshi are doing the rounds for the Finance portfolio.

Mr Abdullah, who has been sulking over not being able to become the next Vice-President, may be considered for a Cabinet berth at the Centre.

Replying to a question whether BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy was being inducted, the Prime Minister said in a lighter vein: “He is the President. He can remove me from Prime Ministership”. PTI



Joshi and Jana join hands to challenge Advani
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 26
The emerging axis between Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and BJP President K. Jana Krishnamurthy appears to have upset the plans of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to undertake a major restructuring of the party and the government.

Emboldened by the backing of the RSS, the “Jana-Joshi duo” has given a new twist to the infighting within the ruling, which is hotting up, and has posed a challenge to the dominant role being played by former BJP President, Home Minister and the architect of the Ayodhya movement L.K. Advani.

Mr Vajpayee’s move to elevate Mr Advani as Deputy Prime Minister was also shot down by the RSS, sources said.

The Prime Minister, who in close consultation with Mr Advani, was reportedly very keen to undertake the restructuring of the government as well as the party but Mr Krishnamurthi’s steadfast refusal to bite the bait of accepting a berth in the Union Cabinet has put spokes on the former’s plan.

Upset with the reversal of the party’s electoral fortunes in the recently held Assembly elections particularly in the Hindi-speaking states of north India, Mr Advani has reportedly been very eager to make the BJP a fighting outfit by bringing in relatively younger elements to lead the party for quite some time now and had accordingly suggested to the Prime Minister to move Mr Krishnamurthy to the government for paving a way for major party structuring.

Perceiving his movement to the Union Cabinet an insult to his long political career, a beleaugered Krishnamurthy thought it fit to consult Dr Joshi immediately before the national executive committee meeting in April this year in Goa.

Dr Joshi, who in the RSS’s assessment is the only minister in the Vajpayee government to have relentlessly pursued the Hindutva agenda, saw a grand opportunity here to fulfill his long nursed ambition to assert himself and re-emerge as a dominant leader of the party and advised the BJP President to move on the RSS agenda rather than following the compromised NDA path.

Dr Joshi, who has Prime Ministerial ambitions, is also understood to have told Mr Krishnamurthi to tighten his grip on the party.

Following Dr Joshi’s advise, the BJP chief ensured that former party President Kushabhau Thakre, who was in Mr Vajpayee’s camp and was also maintaining a rapport with the RSS, was sidelined.

Having isolated Mr Thakre, Mr Krishnamurthy without consulting either Mr Advani or Mr Vajpayee, reallocated the party work thus creating roadblocks on Mr Advani’s plan to revamp the party.

Mr Advani had announced in Panjim during the national executive meeting that a Kamraj plan for revamping the BJP was on the anvil. The Home Minister wanted that some of the younger ministers of the Vajpayee Cabinet like Mr M Venkaiah Naidu, Mr Arun Jaitely, Mr Pramod Mahajan and Mr Sushma Swaraj were drafted for the party work.

Mr Krishnamurthy has not only ensured that Mr Advani’s Kamraj plan was not implemented but he went a step ahead by appointing sabre rattlers of Ramjanmabhoomi temple movement like the Faizabad Lok Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar as President of the Uttar Pradesh BJP.

Not only that, Mr Krishnamurthy is reportedly very keen to send Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affair Uma Bharti to Madhya Pradesh to head the party unit there.



Kanchi seer calls on PM

New Delhi, June 26
Amid renewed attempts to resolve the Ayodhya issue through negotiations, Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati called on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at his residence today.

The seer, who yesterday expressed hope about a negotiated settlement of the long-standing dispute, spent about 15 minutes with Mr Vajpayee.

The meeting assumes significance in the wake of the seer’s meetings with Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal and some Muslim representatives during his three-day visit to the capital.

The seer also had meetings with NDA convener and Defence Minister George Fernandes, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Vijay Goel, BJP President K. Jana Krishnamurthy, Urban Development Minister Ananth Kumar, Rural Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, former Uttar Pradesh Governor Romesh Bhandari and BJP leader Kalraj Mishra yesterday.

Mr Singhal, in his meeting with the Shankaracharya yesterday, insisted on withdrawing the VHP’s written assurance to the Prime Minister in March about maintaining status quo at the disputed site in Ayodhya. But the seer had stated that there would be no need for taking back the assurance as he was still optimistic of resolving the issue through talks.

In a significant remark after his meeting with the seer, the VHP leader denied the controversial statement that it would not accept the court verdict on the Ayodhya issue.

During the VHP’s Hardwar conclave, he said, it had been stated that the Ayodhya issue was a matter of faith and therefore, it was beyond the jurisdiction of a court. “None of the VHP leaders said we would not accept the court verdict,” he said.

Mr Singhal was seen with the seer at the Kamakshi Temple again today when Nepalese king Gyanendra called on the seer to seek his blessings.

Among others who called on the seer today were former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, Union Tourism Minister Jagmohan and senior Congress leader Salman Khursheed.

After meeting the Prime Minister, the Shankaracharya also called on Vice-President Krishan Kant.

The seer was also hopeful of a solution to the Ayodhya tangle and said “some good news” might be heard within two to three months.

In an interview to pro-RSS magazine Panchjanya, he said his proposal for a solution to the Ayodhya dispute had not been entirely rejected by the Muslim Personal Law Board. While the talks had been going on, a petition had been filed in the Supreme Court and this had stalled the whole process.

“I am still hopeful of a possible solution to the problem. But for this, restraint should be exercised at the public level so that a conducive atmosphere is created”, the Kanchi seer said.

Asked about the communal violence in Gujarat, he said he felt the Gujarat issue had been blown out of proportion. People outside Gujarat had been unnecessarily creating a lot of hue and cry over the happenings, he claimed. When the Lok Sabha discussed the issue, no MP of the Congress or any other opposition party had spoken against the Gujarat Government, he added.

To a question whether the demand for the removal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for restoration of peace in the state was justified, the seer said he had been to Gujarat and had spoken to many Muslims. The state government had been controlling the situation well and the decision about retaining Modi as Chief Minister or not was to be taken by the people of the state and not by those sitting in Delhi or Thiruvananthapuram, he said. UNI, PTI


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