New Delhi, Sept. 22: As the suspense continued to build in the resignation drama, the meeting Murli Manohar Joshi was supposed to have with L.K. Advani during the day did not take place.
Defence minister and NDA trouble-shooter George Fernandes met Joshi at his residence and reportedly persuaded him to withdraw his resignation.
Joshi told reporters he would divulge details of his meeting with Fernandes at an “appropriate time”.
Yesterday, sources close to Advani had said he would call on Joshi today to dispel the impression that all was not well between the two. BJP sources said the meeting got stalled over modalities. Advani wanted Joshi to come over to his residence, but Joshi insisted it should be the other way round.
TV crew and journalists waiting at Joshi’s residence left disappointed at sundown with one soundbite from the minister: “If the deputy PM comes, I will welcome him.”
Sources said the meeting could take place tonight away from the glare of publicity after Advani was done with an exclusive screening of Subhash Ghai’s film Joggers’ Park.
The other meeting Joshi was supposed to have with K.S. Sudarshan did not materialise because the RSS chief was in Nagpur for the funeral of Sangh ideologue Morapant Pingle.
Sources said RSS leaders, mainly Sudarshan, H.V. Seshadri and Mohanrao Bhagwat, continue to hold the view that Joshi must stick to his resignation and not lose the “moral ground” he has gained among the cadre. The RSS leaders will convey their stand to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after he returns from the US.
The sources said the Sangh’s opinion that Joshi was the BJP’s “best bet” as its president in an election year was buttressed by the feedback the leaders received on his Allahabad visit.
“The reception he got was tumultuous and it proved that he can win this seat again. Once he gets a fresh mandate, he can always think of rejoining a government if the BJP forms one,” a source said.
The Sangh leadership, barring Madan Das Devi, felt that instead of packing the party with Rajya Sabha MPs who rarely, if ever, win a direct election, it would be “better” to choose people who “had the support of the masses”.
Those who now comprise the “official” BJP — president M. Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — belong to the Upper House.
BJP sources admitted that the principal reason for cold-shouldering Joshi was the fear that once he was outside the cabinet, he could upset Naidu’s apple cart.
The party alleged that by putting in his papers without “consulting” Naidu or other functionaries, Joshi had “violated” the official line that nobody charged in the Ayodhya demolition case need quit because it was a “political agitation”.