The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani in last-ditch stand
Sangh forces BJP to choose boss

New Delhi, July 11: The RSS is pressuring the BJP president to quit, but Lal Krishna Advani is resisting, plunging the Sangh parivar in its biggest crisis.

Sources described the tussle as a “battle of leadership versus loyalty” as Advani fought to keep his job and the Sangh questioned his “ideological credentials”.

The Sangh held one-to-one discussions with BJP leaders on the consequences of Advani’s Pakistan visit, who his successor ought to be and how the BJP should “recast” itself after his departure, ideologically and politically.

But on top of the agenda was the mechanism to get him out if he held on. And the signals are that he is not going to give up without a fight ' that’s what people close to him suggested as Sushma Swaraj and other second-rung leaders visited him, interpreting their gesture as indication of solidarity.

Sangh sources said first they would get the BJP’s senior leaders to prevail on Advani. If that did not work, a meeting of the national council would be called to pass a resolution against Advani.

BJP general secretaries are meeting tomorrow morning.

Sources close to Advani said they were banking on an apparent lack of consensus on his successor and the Bihar elections.

Those on the other side of the divide said once Advani was out of the way, a successor would be found in minutes. As for Bihar, they asked if it was Advani or Nitish Kumar who would garner votes.

Sources said K.S. Sudarshan, the Sangh head, wanted the change before he left for the US on July 18. They claimed that, having “won” the first round in the war with Advani, which has been going on since he took over as party president last September, the Sangh did not wish to make up with him for fear that such a move would rob it of the opportunity to re-establish its stranglehold on the BJP.

First, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and later Advani had virtually insulated the BJP against the Sangh’s influence, which rankled Sudarshan.

In the latest round of confrontation, Sudarshan turned the heat on Advani first through a statement issued after the Sangh’s Surat conclave that chastised the BJP for veering away from the ideological path.

The same statement also pulled up VHP leader Praveen Togadia for “behavioural misdemeanour”.

Sudarshan kept himself out of the picture and deputed second-in-command Mohanrao Bhagwat and two other office-bearers, Suresh Soni and Madan Das Devi, to do the hatchet job. On Sunday, the trio called on VHP leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore and Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and requested them to rein in Togadia.

Having taken care of Togadia, the triumvirate turned to Advani this morning. Their day began with a breakfast meeting with Vajpayee.

While the former Prime Minister initially let it be known he was on Advani’s “side” and wished him to complete his tenure as BJP president, party sources said Vajpayee sounded “neutral” and even allegedly upheld the one-person-one-post norm.

Advani is also the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the dual command is a sore point with the RSS.

Next, Bhagwat, Soni and Devi went to Advani’s place for lunch. It is learnt that Devi, who used to be the link between the RSS and the Vajpayee government, did bat for Advani but was “over-ruled” by the rest of the Sangh.

Once the trio returned to their Jhandewalan headquarters, they summoned M. Venkaiah Naidu, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, V.K. Malhotra and Pramod Mahajan.

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