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Party fuels Advani return buzz

Raipur, July 19: Is the ground being prepared for the return of L.K. Advani to the BJP as its president'

On the second day of the BJP national executive, it was this conjecture rather than Ayodhya or the women’s reservation bill that engaged the attention of the press. Fuelling it was an amendment in the BJP constitution cleared today along with three others.

The amendment said a member could hold the post of BJP president for more than one term, but with a break and not consecutively. Earlier in December 1999, the Chennai national council had amended the provision to say: “No member will hold the post of president for more than one term of three years.”

When the BJP framed its constitution, it gave a two-year term to a president with the provision that he could seek re-election without a break for another term. The Chennai council, held under K. Jana Krishnamurthi, extended it by another year but put an end to re-election.

Under the Chennai rule, Advani could not seek another tenure as he had already put in four years as president.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, who briefed the press on today’s meeting, did little to end the speculation. When asked if the change was meant to facilitate Advani’s return to the party, he replied cryptically: “Advaniji, Atalji, anyone can be president. I am not ruling out anyone becoming the president.”

However, he added that incumbent M. Venkaiah Naidu would be formally elected president when the process of organisational elections ends in November. Naidu, who was asked to head the BJP after Krishnamurthi was sent to the government before completing a year in office, is yet to be ritually anointed.

After he kicked up a controversy by suggesting that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani would both be projected as the BJP’s mascots in the next Lok Sabha elections, Naidu fell foul of Vajpayee. Naidu, whose proximity to Advani is well known, kept tripping from one controversy to another in later trying to make up with Vajpayee.

Instead of compromising Vajpayee’s authority, Naidu’s own position became shaky as influential voices in the BJP began to talk of alternatives. At one time it was said that either Mahajan or Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi could replace him.

But insiders claiming to “know Vajpayee’s mind” insisted that neither were the Prime Minister’s choice and that if push came to shove, he would prefer Advani, an old organisational hand and an effective strategist, to lead the BJP.

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