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RSS mounts pressure on Advani to quit
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 11
The reverse counting for Lal Krishna Advani seems to have begun with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) tonight mounting pressure on him to step down as BJP President sooner than later.

However, it was not immediately known whether the RSS had set any timeframe for Mr Advani to hand over the baton of the party to a younger leader.

Top RSS leaders Mohan Bhagwat, Madandas Devi and Suresh Soni, held a meeting here with Mr Advani. They reportedly told him that RSS panth pracharaks during their recent meeting in Surat were of the view that his position as BJP President had become untenable after his controversial statement on Pakistan Founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, sources said.

While, Mr Advani’s response to the RSS suggestion was not known, a meeting of the BJP General Secretaries was likely to be held here tomorrow to discuss the developments, party sources said.

Sources said that Mr Advani was not prepared to step down at this juncture and Mr Vajpayee was supporting the party president.

Mr Advani’s stepping down at this moment would not only affect the party’s fortune in the coming Bihar Assembly elections but would also weaken the party as second generation leaders would not be able to lead the party effectively, sources said, adding that the RSS was not concerned about this.

RSS’s top leadership today held separate meetings here with BJP leaders, including Mr Advani and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and conveyed not only Sangh’s concerns over “erosion in ideology”, but also understood to have sought their views on the leadership issue and the ways and means to remove the “irritants” in the relations between various Sangh Parivar outfits.

The RSS leaders, who arrived in the capital yesterday, first held a closed door meeting with Mr Vajpayee this morning at his residence and subsequently discussed with Mr Advani “various issues” confronting the Sangh Parivar.

Besides, the RSS leaders also held a series of meetings separately and collectively with top functionaries of the BJP, including Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, Ms Sushma Swaraj Mr Pramod Mahajan and Mr Rajnath Singh.

While the RSS Spokesperson Ram Madhav merely said “if there is anything we want to convey to you we will tell you”, the BJP Spokesperson Prakash Javadekar maintained that “there is no confusion within the party and in the Sangh Parivar.”

A source said that Mr Advani would continue as the party president and the Leader of the Opposition for sometime and the issue was being shelved for present.

The RSS leaders had met VHP leaders, including its Working President Ashok Singhal and Vice-President Acharya Giriraj Kishore here yesterday.

Since no one other than the three RSS leaders were present at the meetings with Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani and as these leaders remained tightlipped, the BJP circle was abuzz with speculation.

The meeting between Mr Advani and the RSS leaders, held at former’s residence, was organised in such a way that while the mediapersons and TV crews were waiting outside the former Deputy Prime Minister’s house, the meeting had already taken place.

On Saturday, the RSS had issued a terse statement expressing serious concern over the “ideological erosion, behavioural misdemeanour and violation of organisational discipline with impunity by some functionaries of a couple of like-minded organisations.

“Our elders will soon talk to the people concerned and convey the sangh’s reservations,” the statement had said without naming anyone. But it was interpreted as a statement expressing RSS’s displeasure over Mr Advani’s statements in Pakistan praising Jinnah and negating the Sangh fount head’s long-held views on Akhand Bharat and the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Mr Advani had resigned as party President on June 7, but subsequently on the appeal of the “second rung” leaders took back his resignation.

Meanwhile, the BJP issued a stern warning to its workers and leaders to desist from issuing statements critical of the party leadership, rejecting the demand of senior MP Baliram Kashyap asking Mr Advani to resign for “violating” the party-line in eulogising Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

BJP Spokesman Prakash Javadekar told newspersons that the BJP had taken note of the statement of Mr Kashyap, a four-time MP from Chhattisgarh and former minister in the Madhya Pradesh Government, and had found no logic or reason in his statement. “We want the BJP men not to commit such mistakes in future,” he said.

Asked if the party would initiate disciplinary action against Mr Kashyap, Mr Javadekar said no decision had been taken, “but we are only issuing a word of caution to Mr Kashyap and his ilk within the BJP. Such statements will neither serve the party nor its interests.”


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