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BJP flip-flop on Naidu stepdown

New Delhi, July 2: It’s official: BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu will not quit office after the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

Twenty-four hours after a party release said Naidu “will not accept any further responsibility after the accomplishment of Mission 2004”, the party backtracked, saying it had not meant that Naidu would relinquish office after next year’s general elections.

Naidu had earned the Prime Minister’s wrath last month after saying there would be two mascots for the general elections. The incident had fuelled speculation that he could be eased out as party president.

Coming on top of this, yesterday’s release had put Naidu in a spot. The release said: “He has already declared that he is not aspiring for anything else and will not accept any further responsibility after the accomplishment of Mission 2004. He is totally contented and committed to see the party returning to power with a comfortable majority on its own and the continuance of the NDA experiment.”

After today’s flip-flop, the BJP insisted it was not a volte face but “misinterpretation” by the media.

Party sources said the release was meant to be a “background” paper and not for the press. BJP spokesmen Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Prakash Javdekar today chose to blame the media for the flip-flop.

The release was meant to mark Naidu’s completion of one year as party president, they said. The BJP had distributed an eight-page release titled “Major initiatives of Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, president, BJP”.

The release, which highlighted Naidu’s achievements, described him as “everybody’s president” — someone who was acceptable to the Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister and all party leaders and workers.

“The statement did not mean that Naidu would step down from the post after the accomplishment of Mission 2004 of securing majority in the Lok Sabha polls. What he meant was that it was a goal to be achieved,” they said.

The leaders indicated that Naidu, who is ad hoc president, was likely to officially get the post after organisational elections are completed by November this year. If he is reelected, he will continue as party president till 2006.

The release concluded saying that “Naidu declared that the president presides and the committee decides. He declared that he does not believe in ‘anuchar (followers) siddhant’ but ‘sahachar siddhant’ (colleagues)”.

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