The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nervous Naidu keeps PM posted

New Delhi, June 14: For the first time since the shuffle that saw L.K. Advani regain control of the BJP apparatus and Atal Bihari Vajpayee more alienated than ever, a conscious effort is on to keep the Prime Minister in the loop.

Not only is Vajpayee briefed about major meetings, party president M. Venkaiah Naidu and other office-bearers have made it a point to inform him about even the smallest happenings, including sessions held in Guwahati and Rewa.

BJP sources hoped this would help Naidu — who sparked a controversy by projecting both Advani and Vajpayee as the twin mascots for next year’s election — keep his job for the rest of his term.

A purported assurance from the Prime Minister that Naidu should “not worry about the controversy” (over the leadership issue) and “work normally” has been construed as an affirmation that he would not be touched.

Sources close to Naidu also claimed that he expressed his “hurt” at the statements some senior BJP members made against him. The reference was to human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi’s criticism of Naidu in a television interview.

If the party is making an effort to keep him in the know, Vajpayee, too, is doing his bit. Well-placed BJP sources said he has decided to keep a closer watch on the activities at the party’s 11, Ashoka Road headquarters and belie the impression that he is “indifferent” to the organisation.

In this context, a breakfast meeting the Prime Minister’s principal secretary and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra had with Joshi on June 12 was perceived as “significant”.

“They are two of Vajpayee’s most genuine well-wishers and it is but natural that they will exchange political notes,” sources close to Joshi said.

Naidu met Vajpayee for about an hour yesterday. Sources said he gave a “detailed” picture of the forthcoming “chintan baithak” (introspective session), the party’s future programmes and stressed the need to project the government’s “achievements” more “effectively”.

He also shared his feedback on developments in Uttar Pradesh after the Rashtriya Lok Dal pulled out of the BJP-BSP coalition and the claims and counter-claims of support made by chief minister Mayavati and the main Opposition, the Samajwadi Party.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, too, has been keeping Vajpayee informed about the goings-on in the party. Mahajan had long meetings with the Prime Minister and has managed to persuade him to be there on all four days of the chintan baithak, which begins on June 17 in Mumbai.

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