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Bahu leaves BJP baffled

New Delhi, Dec. 13: A telephone talk and half an hour of 'rethink' were all it took for the country's best known 'bahu', Smriti Z. Irani, to retract her demand for Narendra Modi's sacking.

But why Tulsi Virani ' as she's known in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi ' staged the drama off the small screen is a mystery that has left even BJP leaders flummoxed.

Smriti will be in the capital latest by Wednesday to tell her tale to party president L.K. Advani, who is being given a rough time by woman leaders, starting with Uma Bharti.

What has left observers groping for a reason is that the Gujarat chief minister was once among Smriti's well-wishers. Modi was keen on putting her up from Anand or Kheda in Gujarat in the last Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP's central leaders, however, gave her Delhi's Chandni Chowk where she lost. Sources said Modi had promised to find her a 'safe' seat in Gujarat in the next Lok Sabha polls because the television soap, in which she is the main protagonist, revolves around a Gujarati family.

Her behaviour yesterday does not fit into this background.

The sources ruled out the possibility of her looking for an exit route as the BJP is out of power. She could simply have resigned, as Sunil Shastri did the other day.

Did a Modi-baiter in the BJP put her up' 'Politicians are not that naive to use a TV actor to take on a colleague,' the sources said.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose name Smriti repeatedly invoked when she asked for Modi's head because of the riots, said today: 'I don't think it (his resignation) is needed.'

Whatever the motive, the episode took the top brass by surprise last evening. After watching her on TV news channels last evening, Advani got in touch with general secretary Pramod Mahajan who, along with brother-in-law Gopinath Munde, was instrumental in bringing Smriti into the BJP.

Mahajan was flying from Mumbai to Delhi when the news broke, sources close to him said. As soon as he got off the plane, Advani's message was delivered to him. Mahajan called up Munde and asked him to speak to Smriti who happened to be in his house to attend his birthday party. Munde rang back to say she would 'not listen' to him.

It was Mahajan who spoke to her now. He asked her if she was joining the Congress. She said no and asked how she could make 'amends' for her behaviour. Mahajan said he would write a retraction for her to release. She said she would think about it and get back in an hour.

Meanwhile, Advani told Mahajan that if she did not recant, he would have to take action immediately. The message was conveyed to Smriti and she gave in.

Around 9 pm, the retraction drafted by Mahajan was handed to her at Vile Parle, where she was shooting. In half an hour, she was before the news cameras.

The chapter was 'closed'. Or is there more to the story'

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