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Atal awaits appeal turn on Joshi

New Delhi, Sept. 29: Hours after landing, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signalled that Murli Manohar Joshi’s resignation topped his list of domestic priorities, starting his day with separate meetings with BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan and Joshi.

The flurry of activity in and outside 7 Race Course Road, however, did not yield any outcome. BJP sources said Vajpayee was likely to decide on the human resources development minister’s resignation tomorrow after meeting deputy L.K. Advani and BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Claiming to know Vajpayee’s “mind”, the sources said he would “persuade” Joshi to withdraw his papers with the assurance that he would be more closely involved in decision-making both in the government and the party. They added it would be “interesting” to watch how he dealt with the Advani-Naidu duo, which allegedly isolated Joshi in the party after his resignation over the Rae Bareli court verdict.

Another reason for putting off a decision could be to see if Allahabad High Court stays the Rae Bareli verdict for framing of charges against Joshi. His appeal was filed today and his lawyers said the matter was “most likely” to be taken up tomorrow. Sources close to Joshi hoped a stay order would make it easier for Vajpayee to reject his resignation.

Joshi’s petition pleaded that the verdict be set aside as the court’s approach had been far from judicial. It had applied Section 32 of the IPC against him though his “case stands completely at par” with Advani who was discharged.

With Vajpayee back on the scene, the “Advani camp” tried to mollify Joshi’s “hurt” feelings by deputing emissaries to call on him. The first caller was RSS joint general secretary Madan Das Devi, identified with Naidu because of their roots in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Sangh student wing. Next was another former ABVP leader, Rajkumar Bhatia, now in the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

Sangh sources conceded their objective was to assure Joshi he was not “alone” in the parivar and that “every individual was as important as the other”. Sources close to Joshi called it a “belated healing touch” and said neither Devi nor Bhatia had spoken to him on a one-on-one basis in several years.

Although there were reports that Advani would call on Vajpayee after he returned from Visakhapatnam, the meeting did not take place.

Instead, Mahajan spoke to him and carried inputs back to Vajpayee. It is expected that something will be worked out by Vajpayee and Mahajan tonight, which will be conveyed to Advani and Naidu tomorrow.

Joshi was reticent about his meeting with Vajpayee. “He asked me to narrate the sequence of events (after the court verdict). I also informed him about the petition I had filed… He asked me why I resigned.”

Asked what he expected of Vajpayee, Joshi said: “I can only react once the PM speaks. I have done my work, now the PM has to take a decision. I am always happy when I meet him.”

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