M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee, Yashwant back Khurana
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 8
The growing schism within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into open when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today opposed party President L.K. Advani’s decision to expel former Delhi Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana from the party, saying that he should have been given another chance to explain his position.

While Mr Vajpayee described the expulsion “unfortunate”, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha questioned Mr Advani’s decision and demanded that Mr Khurana’s expulsion should be reconsidered.

In an obvious damage control exercise, some of the senior party leaders, including Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh, former BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu met Mr Vajpayee and RSS leader Suresh Soni, who coordinates between the Sangh and the party, individually.

With Mr Advani being out of station, some of the party office-bearers, including Mr Arun Jaitley and Mr Naidu, were understood to have spoken to him over phone and were likely to meet him personally late in the evening on his return to the Capital from Rajasthan.

Today’s snub from Mr Vajpayee definitely came as a big embarrassment for Mr Advani barely 10 days ahead of the Chennai National Executive meeting, where the BJP President, who had been under constant pressure from the Sangh to quit the party position, was expected to announce his future plans.

Despite some noises within the BJP for revoking his suspension, Mr Khurana today went ahead with a meeting of his supporters and launched a bitter attack on Mr Advani whom he accused of being “dictatorial”.

After Mr Vajpayee’s statement of support for Mr Khurana, there was a sudden silence within the Advani camp in the party as the BJP decided to cancel a scheduled media briefing by party spokesman Prakash Javadekar.

Mr Vajpayee not only opposed former Mr Khurana’s expulsion from the party but also termed it as “unfortunate”.

He said it would have been better if Mr Khurana was given another opportunity to clarify his stand.

The intent and purpose of Mr Vajpayee’s displeasure with the party leadership could be gauged from the fact that the former Prime Minister chose to issue a detailed statement in which he said that Mr Khurana had served the party and society selflessly for four decades and spread its message far and wide.

Referring to the charge of anti-party activities levelled against Mr Khurana, Mr Vajpayee said, “It would have been better if instead of action being taken against him, he was given one more opportunity to clarify his stand.”

Recalling his recent meeting with Mr Khurana, Mr Vajpayee had expressed hope that keeping in view his services to the BJP, the party would give him another opportunity to serve it.

Mr Advani had yesterday accepted the recommendation of the party’s Central Disciplinary Committee to expel Mr Khurana for six years on charges of indiscipline.

Mr Khurana was suspended from the party on August 20 and a show-cause notice seeking his reply within 10 days was served to him on August 22.

On August 29, Mr Khurana sought more time to respond to the charges levelled against him.

Meanwhile, Mr Khurana, after his meeting with his supporters, said that he would announce his next step on Monday or Tuesday after discussing the entire issue with “family, friends and BJP Central leaders”.

Three BJP MLAs attended Mr Khurana’s meeting in an expression of support for the former Chief Minister.

His decision would be announced between September 16 and 18, when the BJP National Executive meets in Chennai, said Mr Khurana who had met Mr Vajpayee and former BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy yesterday.

In an emotionally-charged speech to hundreds of his supporters, including three BJP MLAs from Delhi, at his residence here, Mr Khurana said he once considered Mr Advani his “ideal”, but the BJP President had “become surrounded by people giving wrong advice from air-conditioned rooms that I should be pushed to the back.”

Mr Khurana claimed that after he was served a show-cause notice by the BJP on August 22, he sought time thrice to meet Mr Advani but this was not granted.

“Does this not reflect a dictatorial attitude, arrogance?” he asked.

Meanwhile Mr Sinha said that “Mr Khurana is one of the most senior leaders of the party and in the normal course, one would have thought he would be given the time to explain his position. He should not have been expelled in such a summary manner.”

“The Disciplinary Committee should have given him a separate notice and time to reply or even asked him to appear before it and explain his case when it met on September 6,” Mr Sinha said.

The former Union Minister, who was removed as party spokesman after he criticised Mr Advani’s controversial remarks on Jinnah and demanded that he follow the ‘one man, one post’ principle, expressed hope that the decision to expel Khurana will be reconsidered and “he will be given an opportunity to explain”.

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