Debating India

BJP

BJP working on a compromise formula

Friday 10 June 2005, by VYAS*Neena

Meeting put off; party awaiting Jaswant’s return

No senior leader willing to endorse Advani’s views on Jinnah Advani will not withdraw resignation till party speaks positively about his Pakistan trip Party has appealed to Advani to withdraw his resignation, but ideology cannot be diluted: Murli Manohar Joshi

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s expanded parliamentary board meeting scheduled for Thursday evening was postponed by a day. This will give it a little more time to try and craft a compromise formula that will ``satisfy" L.K. Advani and enable him to withdraw his resignation as party president without displeasing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The RSS has disagreed with Mr. Advani’s view that the Pakistan founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was secular.

However, the hitch in the negotiations between those close to Mr. Advani and others was that virtually none of the senior leaders and office-bearers was willing to endorse his views on Jinnah made during his recent visit to Pakistan. Some in the party described his visit as a "diplomatic success" and praised his contribution to the peace process with Pakistan. Others wondered how the BJP would talk about his visit ignoring the remarks on Jinnah that led to protests from the Sangh Parivar and met with disapproval from parties across the political spectrum.

Another resolution

After meetings at the party headquarters and the residence of vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, drafts of another resolution for Friday’s parliamentary board meeting were apparently shown to Mr. Advani. But till late in the evening nothing could be worked out that would satisfy him and not annoy the RSS or compromise on the basic Sangh ideology of `Akhand Bharat’ (united pre-Partition India). So time was bought till Friday.

The reason given by the BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javadekar, for the postponement of the meeting was that the senior leader, Jaswant Singh, now in Israel, had expressed a wish to be present at the meeting. He would be back here on Friday.

However, senior party leaders privately said that there were enough indications from Mr. Advani’s camp that he would be willing to consider withdrawing his resignation if the party were to applaud the success of his visit to Pakistan. The problem was that the RSS made it clear that Mr. Advani’s views on Jinnah were unacceptable, and it was now for the BJP to accept or reject his resignation.

The RSS spokesperson, Ram Madhav, said: "Our ideological position is known to them [BJP leaders] and we have made it clear. Now, whether Mr. Advani withdraws his resignation or the BJP accepts it is the BJP’s internal issue. We have nothing to say." He denied that any top-level contact was made between the RSS and the BJP over the last 24 hours.

The senior BJP leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, said Jinnah was not secular and that he was prepared for a debate on the subject as demanded by Mr. Advani. "There can be no dilution of ideology ... ideology is always above individuals ... Mr. Advani is our president and the party has appealed to him to withdraw his resignation, but vichar dhara ko halka nahin kiya ja sakta (ideology cannot be diluted)." Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi said the same thing.

A senior party leader described the dilemma faced by the BJP: "The matter has got stuck on the remarks on Jinnah. All office-bearers are one on this ideological issue. Sudhendra Kulkarni [Mr. Advani’s secretary and an office-bearer] tried to raise the issue at Wednesday’s board meeting, but he was firmly told `no.’ Mr. Advani told us that unless the party speaks [positively] about his Pakistan `yatra,’ he cannot withdraw his resignation. But how can the party speak about the Pakistan visit and ignore the Jinnah comment?"

Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat met the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and later Mr. Advani made a "courtesy visit" to his residence. A party functionary said: "Back channel diplomacy is also at work." He confirmed that journalists Chandan Mitra ( a BJP-nominated MP) and Swapan Das Gupta, both close to Mr. Advani, had helped to draft the resolution.

See online : The Hindu

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