New Delhi, Oct. 27: If his critics have their way, Brajesh Mishra may soon have to choose which of the two hats he would like to wear — that of principal secretary to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee or of the national security adviser.
It will also depend on whether Vajpayee’s position in the BJP and the Sangh parivar strengthens or weakens over time.
The Prime Minister is aware that he is the target of the Sangh and that once he gives in on Mishra, it will be baying for his scalp. But, if things get too hot, Vajpayee may be forced to ask Mishra to choose one of the two posts.
The demand is being made not by the VHP and other hardliners in the Sangh alone. Many of Vajpayee’s senior Cabinet colleagues, including deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes and finance minister Jaswant Singh, have been arguing that with the heightened security threat from across the border, the country requires a full-time national security adviser.
This argument more than any other weighs on the Prime Minister’s mind, though he knows this is also meant to corner him.
After last December’s attack on Parliament, followed by three other similar incidents, Vajpayee realises that internal and external security is on top of the nation’s agenda.
Terror strikes anywhere in the country will be used by the Sangh to criticise the government.
Sources close to Vajpayee, however, wonder why he is being targeted when internal security is Advani’s responsibility. But the home minister has rarely faced the parivar’s wrath.
Government sources said the Prime Minister is in no mood to make changes immediately and be seen as giving in to pressure. At the same time, he is unlikely to go against the parivar completely.
If, however, in the power tussle in the party and the parivar, the Prime Minister’s position strengthens over the next few weeks, he will certainly not sacrifice his most trusted official.
As Vajpayee’s closest aide, Mishra has been under attack in the past. First, J.K. Jain of the Jain television channel led a sustained campaign against Mishra, hurling accusations of corruption. Later, during Tehelka, anti-Vajpayee sections within the RSS and the VHP went after the principal secretary.
This time, however, the voices of Mishra’s enemies in the parivar have found strength in security concerns being expressed by senior ministers with whom the principal secretary’s relations are not exactly cordial.
If Vajpayee can, he will delay a decision. But, as of this moment, he appears to feel he cannot afford to antagonise the Sangh and his ministers.