The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chennai’s the limit: Sangh to Advani

New Delhi, July 19: The RSS has asked L.K. Advani to step down as BJP president before the rescheduled national executive meeting, well placed sources in the party said.

The national executive, which was to meet from July 21 in Chennai, will now do so from September 16.

The sources said according to the agreement reached between the RSS and the BJP, the former expects the meeting to be presided over by a new chief. This arrangement, they maintained, would serve two mutually beneficial purposes. It gives Advani an opening to exit “honourably”, rather than be seen as doing so under RSS “pressure”.

The Sangh, the sources added, is afraid that if Advani is allowed to preside over the meet, he might use the occasion to muster a resolution in support of his leadership from a majority of the 140 members. The meeting was reportedly deferred for this reason.

This was also why RSS leaders prevailed on some senior members to write letters contesting Advani’s leadership and authority to pre-empt a show of “solidarity” at the originally planned national executive, the sources said.

It created the impression that not only the Sangh, but even the BJP was not fully behind Advani and the “dissenters” could raise their voices in Chennai.

This prompted a rethink in the BJP about the wisdom of holding the national executive, though Advani wanted to go ahead with it, the sources said. To that extent, the RSS’s tactic worked.

The sources said the RSS brass remembered how Narendra Modi, who was under fire for his government’s alleged complicity in the 2002 riots, was bailed out at a national executive session.

As then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was readying to read the riot act to the Gujarat chief minister, the BJP’s second-generation line-up, comprising M. Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan, Ananth Kumar, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, took up cudgels for Modi.

The RSS had then applauded the pro-Modi demonstration. But this time, the sources said, Sangh leaders admitted that the veterans who challenged Advani in their missives ' M.L. Khurana, Pyarelal Khandelwal, Bangaru Laxman and K. Jana Krishnamurthy ' would be silenced by Naidu and his chorus boys and girls.

Once the national executive formally endorses Advani’s leadership, the RSS can do nothing, the sources said.

As the pro-Advani section of the BJP claimed the “breather” would give their leader time to re-consolidate his position, the “dissidents” betrayed signs of panic.

Krishnamurthy reportedly wondered aloud to some BJP members whether he had made a “mistake”, while Khandelwal spoke of how the party chief was not a “vengeful” sort.

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