M A I N   N E W S

Advani to stay on both posts
Satish Misra and S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 17
Facing pressure from within and the Sangh Parivar outfits to step down as President of the BJP, Mr Lal Krishan Advani today managed to get the much-needed relief to chalk out his future course on the “one-man-one-post’ principle with the RSS deciding to soften its stand for the time being.

With the RSS stating that it will not interfere in the internal affairs of the party, the persisting doubts over the holding of the BJP’s National Executive meeting in Chennai beginning July 21 have been removed.

Mr Advani would continue to hold both the posts of the BJP President and the Leader of the Opposition for the time being, thanks to the intervention of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had a telephonic conversation with the RSS Chief K.S. Sudarshan yesterday.

The BJP President followed it up by not only speaking to Mr Sudarshan himself yesterday over phone, but also holding a meeting with RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat and joint general secretary Suresh Soni, at Sangh headquarters here at Keshavkunj today, “to clear the misgivings”.

Immediately after Mr L.K. Advani’s meeting with RSS leaders, BJP Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who accompanied Mr Advani to the RSS headquarters, declared that Mr Advani would continue to be party President and would preside over Parliamentary Party meeting tomorrow to discuss issues to be raised in coming Monsoon Session of Parliament. Senior party leaders Jaswant Singh and Sanjay Joshi were also present at the meeting.

“We are going to function under Mr Advani’s leadership,” Mr Naidu told an impromptu press conference at Mr Advani’s residence.

Asked whether Mr Advani would step down as party Chief, Mr Naidu shot back saying: “There is no need from our side to comment on the issue. Whenever we take decisions on any change, it is conveyed through our spokesperson.”

To a query about Mr Vajpayee’s comments on one-man-one-post decision taken by the party, Mr Naidu said, “I have not knowledge of any such statement as I was extremely busy.”

He said during the meeting with RSS leaders, the party leaders conveyed to them “the discussions we had amongst ourselves and told them that we intend to address their concern and move forward.”

“It is my assessment and understanding that they are satisfied,” he said.

In an apparent attempt to underline the importance of the RSS to the BJP, Mr Naidu said, “As you are aware that many in the party have unique relationship with the RSS and some of us are ourselves Swayamsevaks. We have cordial relationship with the RSS and we will continue to have and there is no secret about it.”

“As a political party we discuss issues from time to time and chalk out our course of action,” he added.

The RSS on its part issued a statement saying it expected BJP to make serious efforts in coming days to address the sentiments expressed by the Sangh on issues like ideology, conduct, organisation and emergence of new generation.

The statement issued in the name of Bhagwat, also said the RSS would not interfere in the decisions of the BJP.

“We expect that while doing all this, our Swayamsevaks will be cautious in maintaining organisational discipline,” the RSS statement added.

The meeting of the general secretaries, which was scheduled to be held today evening at Mr Advani’s residence to clear the draft resolution for the Chennai National Executive meeting, would be held tomorrow morning.

While five senior BJP leaders had asked Mr Advani yesterday to either step down or have a discussion on the one-man-one-post principle at the Chennai meeting, the BJP President held over an hour-long meeting with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee yesterday where it was decided to get in touch with RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan in Nagpur.

Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani spoke to Mr Sudarshan on telephone in Nagpur last night and after that a way was paved for restoring at least a semblance of confidence between the Sangh and the BJP.

Mr Vajpayee’s support to Mr Advani and subsequent parleys with Mr Sudarshan, Mr Bhagwat flew to the capital today. Mr Advani, in company of Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh, Mr Naidu and party general secretary in charge of organisation Sanjay Joshi drove down to Keshavkunj for a meeting with Mr Bhagwat and Mr Soni where the RSS issued a statement saying that Sangh outfits including the BJP were free to take their own decisions.

Earlier, Mr Vajpayee cleared the confusion when he came out in support of the BJP president, saying he could continue in both posts as party chief and Leader of the Opposition and the party need not be bound by the one-man-one-post norm.


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