The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parivar kiss after kicks

New Delhi, April 20: After clawing each other for days, it was kiss and make up time for the Sangh parivar.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee disowned the remarks made yesterday and said Lal Krishna Advani would continue as BJP president.

K.S. Sudarshan, who started the family fracas by saying a younger leadership should take charge of the BJP and by being dismissive about Vajpayee's performance in government, showered praise on the former Prime Minister.

Vajpayee had yesterday appeared to agree with Sudarshan's suggestion of a change of guard, stunning Advani and party members who interpreted it as a hint from him that the BJP chief should step down.

Today, Vajpayee said: 'Yesterday after the (BJP) parliamentary party meeting, as I was leaving, I was asked some questions by journalists but my answers were wrongly interpreted. I did not say anything which would create a dispute on whether Advani should continue as the BJP president or not. Advani took over just a few months ago and he is leading the party very successfully. We all want him to continue as the party president.'

Shortly after Vajpayee's statement, senior leader Jaswant Singh told reporters that Advani would complete his term and the 'idea' of a second-generation leadership was 'mythical', created by the media. Singh is believed to be among those who donned the fire-fighter's garb.

If the clarification threw a blanket over the fire Vajpayee had set off, a cooling exercise got underway in Jaipur, too, where Sangh chief Sudarshan said the National Democratic Alliance, led by Vajpayee, had 'shattered the myth that only the Congress could provide a stable government'.

He said his comments to a TV channel were 'completely distorted'.

From Sudarshan and Vajpayee's latest accounts, it seemed the media were the villain of the parivar piece.

Whoever is the culprit, the players in the family drama's acrimonious act decided to conjure up a scene full of embraces ' Vajpayee-Advani and Sudarshan-Vajpayee.

Vajpayee took pains to draft the statement issued today. He is believed to have called Advani twice yesterday to explain that his words were 'twisted' out of context but, since his statement had nonetheless kicked up a storm, he would recant the first thing in the morning.

In Vajpayee's praise, Sudarshan said under his leadership the country conducted nuclear tests and laid the Golden Quadrilateral roadmap and that his government should be judged by these achievements.

Sources said this show of rapprochement all round need not mean that the turmoil is over. For instance, despite public affirmations of faith in Advani's leadership, it was getting 'morally untenable' for him to continue holding two posts. He is also the leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

Although the amended BJP constitution does provide for one person holding two posts, the Sangh chief has reminded the party that it was Advani who had proposed the rule of 'one person, one post'.

The sources added that while Advani would not step down immediately as that would be seen to be acting under Sangh pressure, he could announce a decision closer to the completion of the BJP's silver jubilee celebrations in December. The party plans to commemorate the finale by holding a 'grand' national council in Mumbai.

In the interregnum, the party will decide who should take over. Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh are being regarded as the candidates. The other option is to revive the 'panch pyara' (five faithful) line-up that was put in place by Advani before 1996 to present the face of a collective leadership because of deep divisions in the BJP second rung.

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