Debating India


Advani quits as BJP president

Wednesday 8 June 2005, by VYAS*Neena

Party cadres stunned, VHP members celebrate resignation in Ahmedabad

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Sandeep Saxena
STANDS FIRM: BJP leader L.K. Advani leaving after meeting the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at his residence in New Delhi on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party president L.K. Advani resigned his party post on Tuesday, following the controversy over his description of Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah as "secular" and his remark that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was the "saddest day" of his life.

The BJP cadres are stunned by the development, which has arisen in the wake of the severe criticism of Mr. Advani by the Sangh Parivar outfits.

As he was firm that his resignation be accepted, the focus was on leadership change, a problem that has confronted the party and was brought into sharp focus by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief K.S. Sudarshan, suggesting a few months ago that the ageing BJP leadership make way for the next generation. The immediate task before the BJP is to arrive at a consensus with the Sangh Parivar on who should now lead the party. The Sangh will have a major say in this exercise, notwithstanding its public stance.

Parliamentary board meeting

After daylong meetings at the residences of Mr. Advani and the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee - who returned here from Manali in Himachal Pradesh - and a meeting between the `big two’ at Mr. Vajpayee’s house, the party decided to call a meeting of its parliamentary board on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Announcing this, vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu showered praise on Mr. Advani and condemned as "highly objectionable" Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia’s description of him as a "traitor."

Mr. Naidu expressed the hope that "even now Mr. Advani will accept the wish of the party to reconsider his decision."

It was in the morning that the drama unfolded with Mr. Advani asking the party general secretary (organisation), Sanjay Joshi, a key RSS man, to come to his residence. A three-paragraph letter of resignation was handed over to him and immediately Mr. Advani’s aides distributed copies to waiting reporters.

"I am writing this letter just before departing from Karachi ... to request the party to relieve me from presidentship. I am sure acceding to my request would be in the best interests of the great cause I have served all my life, as also the party which has given me so much," the letter said.

However, even in the BJP there were not many takers for the line that the letter was written in Karachi after the RSS reacted to his Jinnah remark and said it was contrary to the Sangh ideology. This came soon after the Sangh’s unhappiness with his earlier comment that "the saddest day" in his life was the day the Babri Masjid was demolished.

Mr. Togadia - many correspondents received angry SMS messages in his name calling Mr. Advani a traitor - was reported to have asked what Mr. Advani had been doing with the letter since his arrival in India on Monday morning.

It seems Mr. Advani’s idea of Jinnah’s secular credentials is too hard for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to swallow. As one senior Muslim leader of the party said: "For no Indian and no Indian Muslim has Jinnah been a hero or icon. He is a hated figure held responsible for divided families and many other problems of Partition. Some may hero-worship Saddam Hussein for taking on the United States, even though unsuccessfully, but Jinnah is an icon for no one."

Vinay Katiyar, BJP leader, is reported to have said Jinnah "broke the country" and now Mr. Advani was destroying the party.

In Ahmedabad, VHP cadres celebrated Mr. Advani’s resignation by bursting firecrackers.

Debate over: RSS

RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav made it clear that the resignation issue was for the BJP to decide. The RSS had not asked for the resignation and was not going to ask Mr. Advani not to press it. "The RSS is not in agreement with the sentiments expressed [by him on Jinnah]. The debate is over," Mr. Madhav said.

On Monday, Mr. Advani called for a "debate" on the issue.

The resignation, party leaders hint, was "inevitable" after the RSS demanded that Mr. Advani "review" his remarks and after he made it equally clear that he would not. "I have not said or done anything in Pakistan which I need to retract or review," he emphasised in his resignation letter.

See online : The Hindu

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