M A I N   N E W S

Advani quits, but partymen say no
Satish Misra and S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
A rattled and bewildered BJP rallied behind party President L.K. Advani imploring him not to press his resignation for “being relieved from the party post.”

With former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the vanguard trying to prevail upon Mr Advani not to quit as BJP President, there were scores of meetings throughout the day to find a way out of the impasse. However, Mr Advani remained firm in his resolve to resign as the BJP President though several senior leaders expressed confidence that Mr Vajpayee would succeed at some point of time if not immediately in convincing him to relent from his resolve in the interest of the party.

A meeting of the party office-bearers along with the BJP Parliamentary Board has been convened here tomorrow at 5 pm to consider Mr Advani’s letter in which he has asked to be relieved from the party Presidentship, organisation Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu told mediapersons after remaining huddled with Mr Vajpayee and other office-bearers.

“We are confident that Mr Advani will accept the wish of the party and take back his resignation,” a flustered Mr Naidu observed. “Mr Vajpayee told us that Mr Advani was firm on his request to be relieved from the post of party Presidentship.”

He said the BJP strongly condemns VHP leader Praveenbhai Togadia’s anti-Advani statements and taken exception to the acerbic language used by Mr Togadia. Mr Naidu praised the role and “yeoman service” of Mr Advani in building and expanding the base of the BJP.

Mr Naidu praised the contribution of both Mr Advani and Mr Vajpayee to the nation, the cause of Hindutva as well the nationalist forces and the party.

Mr Advani’s letter to BJP General Secretary Sanjay Joshi offers an insight to the Leader of the Opposition’s mind when he remains firm on his comments and observations on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

“I have taken this decision after pondering the matter very carefully. And I believe that my visit to Pakistan last week has immensely reinforced the initiatives taken by the NDA Government to bring about peace and normalcy with Pakistan. I have not said or done anything in Pakistan which I need to retract or review”, the one page letter said.

“All the party leaders are of the view that he should withdraw his resignation. They have met former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and discussed the issue. The request of all the leaders, including the allies of the BJP, is that Advani should withdraw the resignation,” party spokesman Prakash Javdekar told newspersons at the party headquarters.

The spokesman maintained that “Advaniji is still the President. There will be no more questions and answers.”

Asked about reports that Mr Naidu has been asked to officiate as President, he pointed out that “he has been coordinating party affairs earlier also.”

Soon after his return here from Manali after a short vacation, Mr Vajpayee spoke to Mr Advani on the telephone after senior party leaders had urged him to persuade Mr Advani to reconsider his decision.

While confirming Mr Vajpayee’s call, Mr Advani’s aides said that they were not aware of the contents of the telephonic conversation between the two leaders.

Making a statement at Bhunter airport, Mr Vajpayee backed Mr Advani’s statement on Pakistan and its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah who had played an important role in the freedom struggle.

The former Prime Minister also said Mr Advani’s remarks had been “misinterpreted. His remarks on Jinnah are being misinterpreted”.

A senior leader said Mr Advani has played the role of a “statesman” in Pakistan as his statements and observations during his stay in the neighbouring country would go a long way in facilitating the peace process.

“The real villain of the piece are Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders like Ashok Singhal and Acharya Giriraj Kishore and their loudspeaker Praveenbhai Togadia”, the senior leader said adding that “Mr Advani has initiated a process through which many temples are being restored in Pakistan and the VHP is trying to thwart the whole process. Mr Advani’s statements and comments during his trip to Pakistan would contribute to the conflict resolution process with Pakistan”, he said.

Even as efforts were on to persuade Mr Advani not to press his resignation, inspired rumours suggested that former party president and Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi was being backed by the Sangh Parivar to take over the reins of the BJP.

While Mr Advani’s letter to the party General Secretary said “I am sure acceding to my request (of being relieved from the party presidentship) would be in the best interests of the great cause I have served all my life, as also of the party which has given me so much”, such a decision can only be considered by the party working committee.

Barring protests and welcome statements from the VHP leaders, the Rashtriya Swayamsevk Sangh has maintained that it had not demanded Mr Advani’s resignation.

“Unfortunately, RSS supremo K Sudarshan does not enjoy a moral clout of his predecessors like Golwalkar, Balasaheb Deoras and Professor Rajendara Singh “Rajjubhaia”. Sudarshanji is not in a position to rein in the extremist elements of the VHP”, a BJP senior leader observed adding that “this is not a BJP crisis but of the entire Sangh parivar”.

Meanwhile, Acharya Giriraj Kishore commenting on the resignation of Mr Advani said “ it is in line with the wishes of the people and the party workers that he (Mr Advani) has resigned and I am sure a principled man like him will not withdraw his resignation.”

Asked about VHP firebrand leader Togadia terming Mr Advani a “traitor”, Acharya Kishore said “if anybody has said anything like that then we apologise.

On who would be the VHP’s choice to lead the BJP, Mr Kishore said “It is BJP’s headache but whoever it is he or she should be committed to the Sangh’s ideology.”



VHP welcomes resignation, RSS denies pressure

New Delhi, June 7
The VHP leader, Mr Praveen Togadia, today welcomed the resignation of Mr L .K. Advani from the presidentship of the BJP and said ‘’leaders of his ilk’’ should not be permitted to hold key posts.

Mr Togadia told mediapersons that Mr Advani’s eulogising Mohd Ali Jinnah ‘’who had been responsible for the death of one million Hindus,’’ was unforgivable and not in the interests of the nation.

Mr Togadia wondered why Mr Advani had chosen to make this statement at the mausoleum of Mr Jinnah in Pakistan and not when he was in India.

Replying to a question, the VHP leader said the election of a new leader was the prerogative of the BJP but added that both the BJP and the Congress should have leaders who are ‘’truly Indian.’’

Meanwhile, the RSS, which had demanded that BJP President L.K. Advani withdraw his controversial statements in Pakistan, today said it had nothing to do with his resignation and dismissed suggestions it had applied any pressure.

“We have nothing to do with today’s development (Advani’s resignation. It is an internal matter of the party,” RSS spokesman Ram Madhav told reporters.

Denying any pressure on Mr Advani to resign, he said, “The BJP will take an appropriate decision at an appropriate time. We do not get involved.”

He parried a question on whether the RSS would ask Mr Advani to reconsider his decision.

Mr Madhav, however, maintained that the RSS had objections to the statement by Mr Advani that M.A. Jinnah was a secular man, saying: “We were not in agreement with the sentiments expressed. The debate on the issue is over.”

On Vajpayee’s defence of Advani, he repeated that “the debate is over”. — UNI, PTI



After Advani, who?
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
Even as top BJP leaders were engaged throughout the day in persuading Mr L.K. Advani to withdraw his resignation as party President, a debate began in the organisation on who could be the next president in the event of the former remaining adamant.

Some party insiders, who are in the know of developments within the BJP, feel that former union ministers Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Raj Nath Singh could be the strong contenders for the top party position.

Though party office-bearers and Parliamentary Board members are meeting here tomorrow to discuss the issue of Mr Advani’s resignation and are expected to urge Mr Advani to reconsider his decision, they said the party had started its home work on who could be the next chief in the event of Mr Advani remaining adamant.

According to sources, in the event of Mr Advani not withdrawing his resignation, party Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu would be initially asked to officiate pending further decision.

All three contenders have their own advantages and disadvantages. Mr Joshi’s advantage is that he would be acceptable to the Sangh Parivar for he remained firm in implementing Hindutva ideology while he was Human Resource Development Minister.

However, Mr Joshi’s biggest disadvantage will be that he will not be acceptable to other senior party leaders.

As far as Ms Swaraj is concerned RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan had said recently in an interview, is young, articulate and a woman leader who can take on Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Her disadvantage could be that she is not considered to be having a mass base.

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Raj Nath Singh on the other hand is considered to be a silent but a powerful leader. Moreover, the party may like to back him for it is keen to revive its fortune in the biggest and politically crucial state, Uttar Pradesh.




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