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Deputy fights for PM

New Delhi, Oct. 9: After the Dalit “curse”, the “iron” tonic.

Lauh purush” (iron man) .K. Advani today leaped to “vikas purush” (development man) Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s defence following Mayavati’s charge that the Prime Minister’s foster daughter and son-in-law had “huge” properties.

The deputy Prime Minister blasted the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister. “I strongly condemn Ms Mayavati’s outburst against the honourable Prime Minister. Her statement is not only baseless, but also in bad taste,” Advani said.

“Everyone knows that (the) CBI has been investigating and prosecuting politicians and senior government officials and the PM has never intervened in the entire process. The statement of the former chief minister is only an expression of desperation.”

BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi joined in the condemnation, warning: “The kind of language Mayavati used will not be tolerated by our party.” Mayavati made the allegation yesterday at a news conference after the CBI searched premises she owned in connection with the Taj corridor project. She blamed Vajpayee for the raids and said he will be “cursed by the Dalits”. She demanded an “independent inquiry” into his foster family’s assets.

BJP insiders interpreted Advani’s statement as an attempt at damage control. They said it was to prevent the impression that tension had resurfaced between the Big Two and that Mayavati was taking advantage of the perceived “differences” between Vajpayee and Advani .

Party sources took note of the fact that since resigning, Mayavati has pointedly attacked Vajpayee but made no mention of Advani. At the first, she spoke of two factions in the BJP and how the Vajpayee-led one had conspired to bring down her government. After an FIR was filed against her in the Taj corridor case, she alleged that Vajpayee had “personally” supervised the police action. Yesterday, she went one step further.

There were also reports suggesting that Mayavati had become a direct player in the BJP’s internal power dynamics. They suggested that BJP-BSP relations were sure to plummet to an all-time low because the party never “forgave” anyone who dared to target Vajpayee. Kalyan Singh and two former Jan Sangh presidents, Balraj Madhok and Mouli Chand Sharma, were cited as examples.

So the party heaved a sigh of relief with Advani’s statement. The last thing it wanted was a repeat of the “lauh purush-vikas purush” controversy that erupted earlier this year when party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu announced that the BJP would focus on the personalities of both Vajpayee and Advani during its campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.

The Prime Minister, out of the country at the time of the announcement, capped the resulting acrimony by virtually declaring he would retire from politics and asking Advani to lead the BJP in the next elections. A shell-shocked BJP genuflected before Vajpayee and reiterated he and he alone was their leader.

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