Debating India


Speculation on Advani successor

Wednesday 8 June 2005, by VYAS*Neena

Whoever is chosen will have RSS approval

NEW DELHI: Officially, the Bharatiya Janata Party refuses to talk about a likely successor to L.K. Advani, who submitted his resignation as president on Tuesday. The "on record" word is that at Wednesday’s parliamentary board meeting, the effort will be on persuading him to withdraw the resignation, but party leaders have begun talking about the "likely" successors.

Whoever is chosen for the top job will have the approval of the leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh though its spokesman, Ram Madhav, says a decision on accepting or rejecting Mr. Advani’s resignation and choosing a new leader, if at all, is the BJP’s internal matter.

The names being mentioned include the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and now party general secretary, Rajnath Singh; the former Human Resource Development Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi; and the party’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, who was recently praised by the RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan. He said it was not necessary that a new BJP leader would have to be from the RSS stables.

Dr. Joshi’s disadvantage is that there is no love lost between him and Mr. Advani. However, the RSS has a soft corner for him for, he was seen to have implemented the Hindutva ideology during his ministerial tenure.

Ms. Swaraj is not from the RSS, even though Mr. Sudarshan has said that should not be a disqualification.

Mr. Rajnath Singh has several advantages. One, he is from the Hindi heartland. Two, he is very much an RSS man. Three, he "delivered" favourable electoral verdicts for the BJP in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, working quietly. And four, he has avoided controversies.

However, the BJP insists that for the moment there cannot be any discussion on a successor. The party feels that it cannot afford to make another mistake, having had four presidents in four-five years - Bangaru Laxman, Jana Krishnamoorthy, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Advani.

There is also a view that some may not be keen on donning the mantle now as the tenure ends in 2008, one year before the Lok Sabha election is due. The position can catapult the incumbent to the job of Prime Minister.

See online : The Hindu

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