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Gujarat to be discussed in Mumbai: Vajpayee

Naggar (Manali), June 17
Unfazed by the snub he received on Monday, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today stuck to his guns saying “Gujarat” will be discussed at the party’s National Executive meeting in Mumbai next week, an issue on which the Sangh Parivar attacked the BJP leader sharply.

Without taking Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s name or the post-Godhra violence, Mr Vajpayee, on a holiday here, told a meeting of local people that the party “will discuss Gujarat with an open mind” and that it was not afraid of discussion.

He also told a closed-door meeting of the state BJP executive earlier that the BJP lost in the elections because of the anger of the people against some of its allies.

Mr Vajpayee’s remarks contradict BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu’s statement on Monday that “there is no proposal to change the leadership of the BJP government in Gujarat, nor will this issue be on the agenda at the meeting of the National Executive in Mumbai”.

Mr Naidu, after a meeting of senior party leaders that discussed Mr Vajpayee’s interview to a television channel in Manali on Sunday, had said the affairs of the party in Gujarat would be discussed separately.

The former Prime Minister’s remark today raise the possibility of the Gujarat issue — dissidence against Modi and removal and the post-Godhra violence as a reason for defeat — occupying centre stage in the Mumbai meeting.

The RSS and the VHP had attacked Mr Vajpayee’s statement, blaming Gujarat violence for the BJP’s electoral debacle and any moves to replace Modi on that ground. But the RSS is understood to have later softened its stand, saying it was not averse to the removal of Mr Modi but it should not be linked to Gujarat violence.

Even as Mr Vajpayee did not want to talk about the removal of Modi till June 22 when the National Executive meets in Mumbai, differences over certain issues and rivalries within the party are sending strong signals about Venkaiah Naidu facing the axe during the session.

Giving indication to this effect was the executive committee of the Himachal BJP that met and rallied behind Mr Vajpayee. Though Mr Vajpayee refused to comment on the Modi issue, he indicated that he stood by what he meant, saying, “We are not afraid of anybody and we will discus the issue with members openly in the Mumbai session”.

On the defeat of the NDA and the BJP, in particular, Mr Vajpayee suggested that it was time for introspection for those MPs who had lost the poll. On those who had emerged victorious, he suggested that they should work for their return to Parliament in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Referring to the views of certain politicians that the Manmohan Singh government would not last its full term, Mr Vajpayee said he did not believe in astrology.

Commenting on the recent suicides by farmers in Andhra Pradesh after having failed to pay their debts, he said the Congress during the last assembly elections had promised that no farmer would commit suicides in future if the Congress came to power. He said even after coming to power, the Congress could not halt the suicides.

Earlier, Mr Vajpayee held a luncheon meeting with senior leaders of the party from the state here. Prominent among those present in the meeting were former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, former Union minister Shanta Kumar and state unit chief Suresh Bhardwaj. — TNS & Agencies

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