M A I N   N E W S

Advani quits, it’s over to GenNext
Parting shot — dispel impression that RSS controls BJP
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 31
Mr Lal Krishna Advani today formally quit as the president of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

At a press conference here marking the end of the party's silver jubilee celebrations, Mr Advani said he was handing over the reins of the party to Rajnath Singh.

"I had announced at the Chennai meeting of the BJP’s national executive that I will step down as president. I have done so," he said.

He then formally introduced Mr Rajnath Singh to media. "I present to you Rajnath Singh, the new BJP president, and extend my best wishes to him," Mr Advani said.

Mr Rajnath Singh will formally take over as the BJP president on Monday at 9.30 am at the party headquarters in New Delhi.

Mr Advani said Mr Rajnath Singh's tenure would be till February 2007 though the party's national council could re-elect him for another three years.

Welcoming Mr Rajnath Singh, Mr Advani hoped that under his guidance the BJP would emerge a stronger party. He told reporters that the new president would decide about the organisational changes within the party.

Mr Advani sought to lift the morale of his supporters by saying that he would continue to remain the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament.

"Even now, my responsibility is very much there in the Parliament," he said.

Mr Advani used the occasion to speak about the RSS. "I had stated (in Chennai) that an impression has been created that the BJP cannot take any decision without the endorsement of the RSS.

“This needs to be removed. In the past three months, attempts have been made by both sides to remove it,” he said.

While sticking to his stand on the Jinnah controversy, Mr Advani said he was sorry that he could not properly communicate the context of his statement to his colleagues and the RSS.

“I quoted exactly what Jinnah said in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. In Pakistan, to call Jinnah a secular person was a slur, while here it was a distortion of history,” Mr Advani said.

Criticising the conduct of his colleagues, Mr Advani blamed them for the problems faced by the party.

“While the IQ of some leaders was very high, their EQ (emotional quotient) was very low and the difficulties arose because of them,” he said, adding that “ moral and spiritual quotient” was also needed.

Charging the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with taking the threat of terrorism lightly, Mr Advani said the attack on the Indian Institute of Science was not a small issue.

The gravity of the incident should not be judged by the number of casualties, he said, adding that the terrorists had made it known that their target was anything that signifies India's success.

“They (Congress and Communists) are not dwelling on the ideological source, objectives and goals of the terror threat,” he asserted.

Mr Advani alleged that the government was “unwilling and unable to evolve and implement a coherent and focussed policy on terrorism, unguided by petty electoral considerations.”

Mr Advani also demanded that the UPA government should give details about efforts made to extradite Dawood Ibrahim, the key accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.

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