M A I N   N E W S

Advani under pressure to quit
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 26
With L.K. Advani on his way out, his opponents in the BJP are using the vast media contingent present to cover the party’s silver jubilee celebrations to take pot shots at him.

Observers here feel that Mr Advani is now under pressure to quit as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as well.

The first major attack on Advani came hours before the two-day national executive of the party began here today. A senior BJP leader said Mr Advani’s decision to walk out of the Lok Sabha before the voting to expel the ten MPs found guilty of taking cash for questions on camera, “severely dented the party’s image. No body wanted the party to be seen as shielding the corrupt, but that was the public perception we ended up creating.”

The RSS is also gunning for Mr Advani over the BJP’s stand on the constitutional amendment bill providing reservation for SCs and STs in private, unaided educational institutions. “We ended up looking foolish voting with the UPA, after opposing the exemption granted to minority institutions from the purview of the bill,” according to a BJP leader.

According to BJP office-bearers, much of the proceedings at the national executive could consist of an analysis of Mr Advani’s performance as party chief and as leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. Depending on his responses, BJP leaders may even ask him to step down as leader of the party in Parliament.

Meanwhile, anticipating the mood in the party against him, Mr Advani used the Volcker report to hit out at the Congress Party. Addressing BJP delegates ahead of the national executive, he called the Congress the “source of corruption” in the country.

Senior RSS leaders have begun to share the dais with BJP leaders though they had earlier distanced themselves from such meets of the party.

RSS leader Madan Das Devi shared the dais with Mr Advani at the venue of the executive meet. The occasion was ostensibly the release of a book on the BJP by Devi. The book marks 25 years of the BJP.

“We know the BJP is a big unit today, but it has its foundation in the Jan Sangh. The Jana Sangh has its base in the organisation I represent, the RSS,” said Devi.

She was seconded by Mr Advani. “It would not have been born if the Sangh leaders had not raised the issue in the Janata Party. It would have been a misfortune for the nation and ourselves, if we had continued in the Janata Party,” he said. Recollecting the formation of the BJP in Mumbai in 1980, Mr Advani said the party was formed with former Jana Sangh leaders after colleagues in the Janata Party opposed a ban on members’ ties with the RSS.

The BJP has trucked in more than 400 delegates for the five-day affair in Mumbai to mark its silver jubilee celebrations.

Thanks to party leader Pramod Mahajan, its going to be a high-tech affair. A special daily newspaper, live webcast of all events, internet-connected PCs for journalists and grand performances by Bollywood personalities will be part of the celebrations.

The celebrations are being held at the same venue, the Bandra Reclamation Grounds, where the party was launched 25 years ago. While the party’s biggies have been booked in hotels across Mumbai, workers down the pecking order have to do with tents at the Rajat Jayanti Nagar. Tents pitched here are home to more than 2,600 party workers and 500 policemen. Each 10 by 12 feet tent has to be shared by six people.


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