Thursday, June 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Advani to lead BJP in poll: Atal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 4
Springing a surprise, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said that Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani would lead the BJP to victory in the next general elections.

“A country full of self-confidence, a party full of self confidence.... neither tired nor retired.. The party will march to victory under leadership of Mr Advani,” Mr Vajpayee said at a party gathering at his residence. Top BJP leaders, including party chief Mr Venkaiah Naidu, Mr L.K. Advani, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh besides NDA convenor George Fernandes were among those present at the Prime Minister’s residence to congratulate him on the successful completion of his three-nation tour.

Sources said that soon after Mr Vajpayee’s remarks, made towards the end of his speech, senior party leaders met to emphasise that Mr Vajpayee was the tallest and undisputed party leader and would lead the BJP in the next general elections. They attributed his remark as one made during his usual moment of wit.

BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that the Prime Minister was the undisputed leader. “He is our Prime Minister and he will be our Prime Minister in future too.”

“He (Mr Vajpayee) has not said anything surprising. Mr Advani had formulated the strategy. The Prime Minister’s indications were towards this,” Mr Naqvi said, adding that there was no confusion.

Mr Naidu said that the next general elections would be fought under the leadership of Mr Vajpayee. Mr Naidu said that the BJP would fight the elections on the “name, fame and work of the Vajpayee government. Mr Advani will lead the party campaign.... He will be Mr Vajpyee’s deputy,” Mr Naidu said.

The Prime Minister’s statement comes on top of a debate stirred by his remarks on retirement and the subsequent statements made by Mr Naidu that Mr Vajpayee is a “Vikas Purush” (man of development) and Mr Advani is a “lauh purush (iron man).

Following controversy, Mr Naidu had later clarified that Mr Vajpayee would continue to be the Prime Ministerial candidate in the next elections.

Meanwhile, the Congress today accused Mr Vajpayee of “flip-flop” on Kashmir, saying that he should have taken the nation and Parliament into confidence before speaking in a foreign land.

Objecting to his making various statements on the subject, the Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said that during his foreign visit, Mr Vajpayee made several announcements with regard to Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. “At one place, he talked about serious compromise on Kashmir. He even announced retirement if he failed in his Kashmir initiative .... On his return, Prime Minister is talking about PoK,” Mr Sharma said.

On his return from foreign tour, Mr Vajpayee had said that if talks were to start with Pakistan on Kashmir problem, then these had to begin with the Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Mr Sharma also accused Mr Naidu of “double and multiple speak” on the construction of Ram Temple and mosque side by side at Ayodhya as well as projecting Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani as leading BJP’s election campaign for the next Lok Sabha polls.

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