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PM in parivar firefight

New Delhi, Oct. 18: Stung by a fresh barrage of criticism from the VHP against the Prime Minister’s Office and Brajesh Mishra in particular, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to meet RSS leaders on October 24 to contain contradictions within the parivar and see that they don’t get out of hand.

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, the joint general secretary in charge of the VHP’s political wing, Madan Das Devi, and two senior leaders H.V. Seshadri and Mohanrao Bhagwat will attend the proposed meeting.

If the Prime Minister agrees, RSS sources said Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh ideologue Dattopant Thengadi and VHP working president Ashok Singhal could also be included.

The government’s line of “persuasion” will be that the present arrangement is the parivar’s “best bet” and, granted that some space for dissent should be allowed, it will be “counter-productive” to shout and scream against one’s own.

“If the RSS, the VHP and others imagine that their street protests and negative remarks would help the BJP politically, they are mistaken. People are not fools. They may enjoy the criticism but they will ask, aren’t you as much a part of the dispensation as the BJP' They will end up helping the Congress and the Opposition. If we sink, the RSS sinks with us,” said a BJP functionary.

Undeterred, the VHP has stepped up its heat on Mishra with its vice-president, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, accusing the national security adviser of “putting India on the US’ lap”.

At a news conference today, Kishore said: “Brajesh Mishra has the credit of putting India on the US’ lap.” Asked how, he replied: “Because he is the in-charge of the PMO.”

Singhal started the latest round of the anti-Mishra tirade by demanding his resignation in Rajkot yesterday. He described Mishra as the “culprit in the PMO” who was “ruling the country”. “The PM rules the country as per his adviser’s guidance. Here, the adviser is the culprit and should be removed,” the VHP president had said.

The BJP, which was quick to defend the Prime Minister the last time he was within Singhal’s range of fire, was more circumspect this time.

Party spokesman Sunil Shastri said: “The government is working effectively. There is no problem. Singhal’s criticism has been reported in the papers. If it comes before the government, then the party will take a view.”

The BJP expects Vajpayee to answer, at least “partially”, to some of the charges levelled by the parivar constituents when he addresses a meeting at Talkatora stadium in the capital on October 26. The Prime Minister will attend a function organised by the Delhi BJP as part of the NDA government’s third anniversary celebrations.

NDA convener George Fernandes — who was kept out of a conference by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on October 18 when the government completed three years — has been invited as also other coalition leaders to give the occasion a “participatory” feel instead of being a BJP-exclusive affair.

On the Prime Minister’s political agenda is also another meeting slated to be held in Nagpur on November 9 and 10. The meet, to which all BJP MPs and legislators have been invited, will resemble a national council.

Sources said its purpose was two-pronged: first, to reinforce the message that elected members should behave like ruling party representatives and not Opposition “street-fighters”; second, to “legitimise” BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu’s position.

With the Winter session of Parliament beginning in November, the government was worried that “maverick” MPs, close to the “VHP and the swadeshi line of thinking” may raise disconcerting questions on disinvestment, terrorism, troops redeployment, etc. They would be directed to voice their problems within BJP forums instead of going public.

The second objective was to “legitimise” BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu’s position, said sources. Naidu was under flak for allegedly contravening the party constitution to install himself as the chief and later for being embroiled in a land scam dating back to the seventies.

The series of political activities will culminate in a BJP plenary to be held in the capital in December.

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