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BJP rallies behind Modi, ignores Vajpayee
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 14
The Bharatiya Janata Party today virtually overlooked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s critical statements against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and instead the Sangh Parivar threw a protective ring around the controversial leader.

Not only did the BJP come to the rescue of Mr Modi but the entire Sangh Parivar without exception threw its weight behind him.

“There is no proposal to change the leadership of the BJP government in Gujarat. Nor will this issue be on the agenda at the National Executive in Mumbai (on June 23 and 24),” BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu told newspersons after a telephonic discussion with Mr Vajpayee, now on a holiday in Manali, and a meeting of senior party leaders at his residence here.

While harsh statements by the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad against Mr Vajpayee were nothing new but the RSS’s strong defence of Mr Modi is an indicator of the new anti-Vajpayee phase of politics in the BJP which has the sanction of the Sangh.

RSS spokesman Ram Madhav said that there are various reasons for victory and defeat and this should be analysed. “We would not accept putting the blame for the Gujarat violence on an individual, particularly Modi.”

Though various interpretations are being given to Mr Vajpayee’s critical statements against Mr Modi in Manali but sources said the post-Vajpayee phase of the BJP has begun with different leaders trying to figure out which way to go.

Mr Vajpayee’s observations are primarily aimed at correcting his image and place in history but the BJP leadership, including former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, is fully aware that the party cannot survive without the support of the Sangh, a senior party leader pointed out.

Without the Sangh cadres it would be difficult for the BJP to remain in electoral politics, a leader emphasised.

There is a section within the BJP, particularly of non-Sangh leaders, which has long been pleading that the party should adopt a “moderate and liberal” face. The BJP should evolve itself like the British Conservatives, or the Christian Democrats of Germany, they feel.

But this section is powerless as the overwhelming majority of the cadres and leaders are from the RSS.

Mr Vajpayee has made his point and from now on the former Prime Minister will adopt a low profile, sources said adding that Mr Advani and other senior leaders have spoken to the former Prime Minister and urged him not to add fuel to the fire.

The task of damage control is being conducted by Mr Naidu who stressed that the Modi issue would not be discussed in Mumbai.

Mr Vajpayee, who had said on Saturday in an interview to a private TV channel that the post-Godhra violence in Gujarat could be one of the reasons for the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, set off a furore in the Sangh Parivar.

Mr Naidu said he had talked to Mr Vajpayee this morning and told him of the various “unwarranted” interpretations being made of his remarks in the last two days.

The BJP President said the former Prime Minister told him that he had been quoted out of context. “He (Mr Vajpayee) and we are of the view that BJP was not defeated because of the Gujarat violence”, he said.

The BJP President said the National Executive would be meeting in Mumbai for the sole purpose of discussing the strategy for the ensuing Assembly elections in five states — Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh— the task ahead, strengthening of the party and regaining the confidence of the people.

He parried a question on RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan’s sharp reaction to Mr Vajpayee’s remarks. He, however, disagreed with VHP leaders Praveen Togadia and Giriraj Kishore’s remarks on the issue.

“We fought the elections on our agenda and under the leadership of Mr Vajpayee. We accept the results and if there is any deficiency, we will rectify and move forward and there is no dichotomy”.

The meeting at Mr Naidu’s residence was attended among others by senior party leaders Jaswant Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Vijay Kumar Malhotra.

The Bajrang Dal joined the other members of the Sangh Parivar and attacked Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani, accusing them of distancing the party from “Hindutva ideology” and asked them to “take rest”.

Reacting sharply to Mr Vajpayee’s remark that Gujarat riots were responsible for BJP’s debacle in Lok Sabha polls, Bajrang Dal National Convener Prakash Sharma said the BJP stalwart should desist from “humiliating Hindu and Hindutva”.


Clash in Gujarat

Amreli (Gujarat), June 14
Members of two communities clashed in Savarkundla town, about 30 km from here, today. The clash broke out following the death of a person who had suffered stab injuries a few days back, the police said.

People belonging to two communities indulged in stone throwing and torched a truck as the news of the death of Sukhanondhan Bambhania (55) spread.

The police had to resort to lathicharge to control the mob.

Bambhania was injured in a similar clash between the two communities on June 9, triggered by a scuffle over playing cricket. — PTI

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