The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal stumps Advani

New Delhi, April 19: Master politician A.B. Vajpayee today seconded the Sangh chief's proposal for a new and younger leadership for the BJP, putting a question mark on L.K. Advani's position.

'It is a good suggestion. I am not holding any post. I am not doing much work. Nowadays, in fact, I don't have work,' Vajpayee said about K.S. Sudarshan's comment that it was time he and Advani, the BJP president, stepped down to make way for younger leaders.

On whether Advani should quit, Vajpayee said: 'Advaniji ke bare mein Advaniji faisla karenge aur party faisla karegi' (Advani and the party will decide that).

Asked if the BJP's second rung was prepared for the job, he said: 'It is ready at any time to take over and it is necessary for them to take charge.'

Vajpayee's comments came soon after he emerged from a BJP parliamentary party meeting in which he reportedly said nothing but heard Advani and the others out.

It threw the BJP into a tizzy, distracting the party from its attack on the Manmohan Singh government over a new affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on George Fernandes.

Advani's supporters had counted on Vajpayee to back the party president in his 'battle' against the RSS.

They felt a single 'anti-Sudarshan' insinuation from the 'patriarch' would have been enough to push the Sangh boss on the back foot and 'suspend' his change-of-guard operation.

But Vajpayee did just the opposite and sided with Sudarshan. A BJP official remarked: 'Now Advani will have no choice but get ready to step down. The questions are when he will do it and who will take over.'

Sources said that left to itself, the RSS would pick former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh, a favourite on a number of counts: he is from the heartland, belongs to the 'back to basics' school and is a master of organisational management.

Advani's choice, sources said, is either Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley.

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