The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singhal stokes purush embers

Kanyakumari, July 5: Just when the BJP thought it had bottled the vikas purush-lauh purush genie, it has popped up in another branch of the family tree.

VHP leader Ashok Singhal today added a mischievous element to his familiar array of barbs at Atal Bihari Vajpayee, taking care to contrast the “failure of the image-conscious” Prime Minister with the “sacrifices” of L.K. Advani.

Renewing the demand that Vajpayee step down for his inability to pass a legislation on a temple at Ayodhya, Singhal took care to declare that the deputy Prime Minister had made several sacrifices for the temple movement.

But Singhal had a word of advice for Advani, who the VHP leader felt, “seems to have mellowed down” under coalition compulsions. “He (Advani) should think about what he should do.”

Singhal said Vajpayee was the only leader in the Sangh parivar “who opposed the Ram mandir movement”.

“The Prime Minister always distanced from the issue. So it is natural that we look up to Advani, who has been in the forefront of the movement. Advani has made sacrifices, he led the rath yatra and was arrested. He was even present at Ayodhya when the masjid was razed,” said Singhal in the company of Praveen Togadia on the sidelines of the RSS national executive at Kanyakumari.

Singhal’s stepped-up attack on the Prime Minister in the last three days has not been condemned by the RSS, which has so far confined itself to the comment that it was the VHP leader’s personal view.

Asked whether Advani should be projected as Prime Minister since Vajpayee has not lived up to his expectations, Singhal said: “I would not like to say anything on that.”

The cryptic reply stood out against the BJP’s scramble to sing hosannas to Vajpayee to tame the storm set off by party president M. Venkaiah Naidu’s suggestion that lauh purush Advani could be a poll mascot along with vikas purush Vajpayee for the next elections.

Singhal’s barb does not pose a challenge to Vajpayee’s position in the BJP but reflects an opinion among a section of the parivar that the mantle should pass from the “secular” Prime Minister.

Sangh sources said though the RSS national executive might not discuss the tussle between hardliners and the Prime Minister as it is a large body, but a core group might go into it.

The VHP leader had on Thursday demanded that the Prime Minister “step down from the office for his government’s failure to bring in a legislation to build the temple”.

He had said Vajpayee was never in favour of the temple movement and had often suggested the construction of the temple next to the masjid.

The parivar appeared to be tilting towards the hardliners with RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav repeatedly telling reporters that the “Sangh could not ignore the sentiments of those who were at the forefront of the temple movement for two decades”. Madhav downplayed Singhal’s attack on Vajpayee, saying it was Singhal’s personal view.

He also did not agree with a questioner that it has embarrassed the RSS. “The question of embarrassment does not arise. It is up to the BJP to decide who should be Prime Minister or deputy Prime Minister. It is their authority.”

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