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Chintan Baithak to be stormy; Advani, Raje in defiant mood
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13 
Top BJP leaders appear to be in a defiant mood. Leading the pack is LK Advani, who has reiterated his intent of continuing to lead the parliamentary party for full five-year term — against the wishes of RSS, which wants him to retire soon. Not far behind is his protégé and former CM of Rajasthan Vasundhra Raje, who despite facing a virtual revolt from her state unit has also dug in her heels and refused to take hintsfrom the Sangh and party chief Rajnath Singh to move out of Jaipur. 

Advani who reportedly met RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat on August 10, denied any suggestions from Bhagwat to work towards nominating his (Advani’s) successor and instead told him that he would like to complete his full term. 

Since the electoral debacle in the last General Elections, the Sangh has been urging him to pave way for younger leadership. First it was Sushil Soni and Bhaiyaji Joshi who met Advani suggesting a change of guard. Then on June 2 there was a one to-one meeting between Advani and Bhagwat at Sangh’s Delhi headquarters in Jhandewalan, sparking off rumours that Advani’s retirement would coincide with the election of a new BJP president replacing Rajnath Singh by year-end. 

But the BJP performance in the Budget session boosted the morale of Advani and his team — Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely. So convinced was Advani of his indispensability that on the last day of the session he fondly approved Sushma’s assertion that he will complete his full term. Now, he has gone into an overdrive, trying to widen his popularity base and woo Muslims through an Urdu version of his autobiography, My Country, My Life. 

Inspired by the resolve of her leader, Vasundhra Raje indicated her desire to continue as long as she enjoyed the support of majority of her party MLAs She wants the high command to test her strength in the legislature party.

Her reaction comes in the wake of reports that Rajnath has asked her to relinquish her post. But sources said she has cited the case of Bihar where good sections in the party were opposed to deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi. But the party agreed to his suggestion to test his strength in the party, which he won comfortably.

Raje’s loyalists have started drumming up support for their leader. The issue has triggered a “factional war” in the BJP with Rajnath and Advani camps vertically divided over it. While the Rajnath camp wants her to step down, owning responsibility for the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, the Advani camp is backing her to the hilt, contending that she still is the party’s best bet in Rajasthan. 

Even as Raje and her loyalists seem to be in no mood to relent, BJP chief Rajnath Singh today stated in Varanasi that such decisions are taken collectively. He also denied any comment when asked whether she has been asked to resign. Sources said the BJP had agreed to replace Raje following pressure from the RSS.

Sources said the BJP president is keen to go to the Chintan Baithak after cleaning the Rajasthan slate. This defiant mood in the BJP just before the Chintan Baithak is likely to make the proposed meet on August 19, 20 and 21 a stormy affair.

So far Advani faction had succeeded in ensuring that the Baithak would be a routine affair discussing only the “road ahead,” and not raking up contentious issues raised by party leaders Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie about the reluctance of the BJP to fix responsibility about the electoral debacle.

But the latest developments have strengthened the case of BJP vice-president Bal Apte who in his report is supposed to have blamed infighting in the Central and state leaderships and misdirected elitist campaign and suggested drastic corrective measures.



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