Debating India


Advani’s response to party appeal today

Thursday 9 June 2005, by VYAS*Neena

BJP rejects resignation, condemns VHP’s anti-Advani "outbursts"

Response to be considered at 5 p.m. meeting Advani asked for a debate on his remarks on Jinnah. Why should he resign now, let us have a debate, says Vajpayee

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V. Sudershan
NO CLIMBDOWN: Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani leaves Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence in New Delhi on Wednesday. Mr. Advani briefed Dr. Singh on his recent visit to Pakistan.

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s expanded parliamentary board meeting here on Wednesday "unequivocally rejected" the resignation of L.K. Advani as president. It was waiting for Mr. Advani’s response, which he would deliver on Thursday after "thinking over" the party’s appeal that he reconsider his decision. His response will be considered by an expanded meeting of the board scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Party leaders were of the view that there was a 50 per cent chance of his agreeing to withdraw his resignation.

On his way to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to brief him on his Pakistan visit, Mr. Advani told reporters, "The reason for which I asked to be relieved of my position; there is no change there."

Till late Wednesday evening the BJP leaders made frantic efforts to communicate to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) top brass what exactly Mr. Advani had said about Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Resolution adopted

A meeting of the party’s parliamentary board, office-bearers and Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States on Wednesday evening adopted a one-page resolution rejecting Mr. Advani’s resignation, appealing to him to continue to lead the party, and placing on record its appreciation of his leadership and "his contribution to our ideology." It condemned the "anti-Advani outbursts and indecent protests" by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and said such statements "go against the very ethos of Hinduism."

Party leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi, Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Kalyan Singh attended the meeting presided over by M. Venkaiah Naidu. Later, the leaders, except Mr. Vajpayee and Dr. Joshi, went to Mr. Advani’s house to present a copy of the resolution and appeal to him to reconsider his decision. "He told us that he will think it over and let us know his decision tomorrow," a senior leader said.

According to Ms. Swaraj, Mr. Vajpayee said at the party meeting that the BJP leaders should tell Mr. Advani that he asked for a debate on his remarks on Jinnah and therefore he should not leave. "Let us have a debate," Mr. Vajpayee reportedly said.

But during the day partymen who went to meet Mr. Advani individually - Mr. Modi, Dr. Joshi and Bandaru Dattatreya were among them - came back with the impression that he was extremely unhappy that no BJP leader had come out in support of his remarks on Jinnah. He felt completely isolated on this issue.

Complicated matters

But the RSS’ decision not to compromise on this issue, made clear by its spokesperson and conveyed directly by senior Sangh leaders to the BJP top brass, has complicated matters for the party. No one was willing to say a word on the subject.

On Tuesday, both Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Babulal Gaur and the former External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, disagreed with Mr. Advani’s remarks on Jinnah. Mr. Sinha even wondered whether Mr. Advani could be an effective Leader of the Opposition.

As a party insider explained, almost all senior leaders are from the RSS and they are `swayamsevaks’ first, a point Mr. Vajpayee has himself made many times. They cannot go against the clear signal from their parent body that Mr. Advani’s remarks are "unacceptable." The final outcome would depend on the BJP’s ability to persuade the Sangh to be satisfied with an explanation of the context in which the remarks were made.

During the day, word spread that the RSS had asked VHP general secretary Pravin Togadia to resign, but VHP leader Giriraj Kishore went on record to rubbish this claim, virtually blaming the BJP for trying such "diversionary tactics,’’to shift the focus away from Mr. Advani’s unacceptable remarks on Jinnah. He said if Mr. Advani were to withdraw his resignation the episode would be seen as a "drama."

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan is in Jaipur, according to party leaders. There was a distinct possibility of some leaders close to Mr. Advani trying to talk to Mr. Sudarshan to find out whether the Sangh could soften its attitude. This could provide a "window" to reach a compromise.

See online : The Hindu

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