Debating India

Vajpayee is NDA chairman

Tuesday 1 June 2004

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been named chairman of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that was defeated in the general election last month.

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS)

A day before the newly elected Lok Sabha meets Wednesday to begin a brief nine-day session, the coalition met Tuesday to anoint Vajpayee, 79, the chairman of the coalition, giving him a role befitting his image. Former defence minister George Fernandes will continue to be the convenor of the NDA.

Earlier, former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani was named the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, while Vajpayee was anointed chairman of the party in parliament, a post newly created for him.

BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu proposed a change in the party constitution to create the post of chairman, necessitated by Vajpayee’s desire to step into the role of an elder statesman who would philosophically guide the party rather than participate in day-to-day issues.

After the NDA’s stunning defeat in the elections, Vajpayee made clear his reluctance to lead the charge of the opposition against the new Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

So while Vajpayee, a five-time winner from Lucknow constituency, will attend parliament instead of retiring to a quiet life, he will intervene in debates only occasionally.

Advani, known for his tough-as-nails image and organisational skills, will helm the party’s attack in parliament against what it believes is an "unprincipled, unholy alliance" with many tainted ministers.

Getting down to business, the NDA Tuesday decided to take up the issue of "tainted ministers" in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s council of ministers in a big way.

"We will go to the (President) A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on the issue," Fernandes told reporters later.

The NDA also decided to leave it to Vajpayee to take a decision on the UPA’s offer of the post of deputy speaker in Lok Sabha, in exchange for consensus on the appointment of the UPA’s candidate for speaker, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Somnath Chatterjee.

Chatterjee has already been appointed the pro-tem speaker, pending the election to the post on Friday.

The BJP had earlier mulled naming a deputy speaker, but Fernandes said Vajpayee would take a final decision on the issue.

P.S.

in The New Kerala, Tuesday, June 1, 2004.

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