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Advani & crisis stay
- ‘Exit route’ hunt on

New Delhi, July 12: The BJP today said Lal Krishna Advani remains party president but Sangh sources insisted this is only till an exit route is found.

The “crisis” is far from over, the sources said, adding Advani’s “defiance” of the quit order had not gone down well. “The situation is unprecedented and our leaders are planning their next move,” a source said.

Yesterday, the RSS tried to pressure Advani to step down but he resisted.

The BJP chief lined up second-rung leaders Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan and Ananth Kumar, loyalist V.K. Malhotra and new ally Jaswant Singh to bat for him.

In separate meetings with the RSS brass last evening, the BJP leaders said forcing Advani to quit now would be “disastrous”, first because there is no consensus on a successor and also because he alone is “acceptable” to the NDA. With the Bihar polls coming up, this is important.

“He has the highest comfort level with the Janata Dal (United) leaders. A new president will take a long time to build a rapport and we cannot afford that before such a crucial poll,” a source said.

The Sangh trio of Mohanrao Bhagwat, Madan Das Devi and Suresh Soni were “helpless” against the persuasive line-up. Bhagwat rushed to Nagpur today to brief Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan.

Sudarshan, who was to leave for the US on July 18 for his niece’s marriage and wanted the leadership change before he left, has put off the trip.

This morning, there was a show of “solidarity” for Advani at the BJP’s 11 Ashoka Road headquarters. Spokesperson Sushma said that in the meetings last night, “not once did they (RSS) speak of Advani’s resignation”.

Madhav said: “We never said to the media that the RSS had asked for his resignation.”

Sushma parried a question on whether Advani will complete his term. “What do you expect us to do, take a thali (plate) and bang it aloud every morning and chant that Advani is our president'”

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