New Delhi, Sept. 9: The face-off between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani continued into the second day today, though the two spoke on the phone.
Sources close to Advani said Vajpayee had called, but neutral elements in the party did not confirm. Until evening, Advani supporters gave the impression that Vajpayee would issue another statement, which would negate or dilute his comment yesterday that Madan Lal Khurana should not have been expelled.
A senior functionary, close to Advani, was supposed to draft this “statement”, after which it was to be sent to Vajpayee for “endorsement”. Nothing of the sort happened.
The Advani camp claimed the “amended” statement was to say: party discipline is “supreme”, expulsion is final, and there are no differences between Vajpayee and Advani.
Sources, however, explained Khurana was “incidental” to the episode. The “real” issues at stake were Advani’s alleged record of not “honouring” his part of the deals struck with Vajpayee and the RSS and pushing his own decisions on critical matters.
Vajpayee, in the main, brokered the truce between Advani and the RSS in July when the Sangh wanted Advani out as the party president. The understanding was that Advani would step down in early September. But Advani acolytes argued he should stay until the Bihar polls.
Sources close to Vajpayee said he was miffed at the way Advani linked Khurana’s expulsion to Narendra Modi carrying on in Gujarat.
Khurana’s main demand was that the BJP should apologise for the post-Godhra violence and Modi should go.
Before expelling Khurana, Advani publicly snubbed him by backing Modi in a series of meetings in Gujarat. With Khurana’s expulsion, presented as a “unanimous” decision, it was made out as though the BJP was backing Modi.
This angered Vajpayee, who around the same time was petitioned by anti-Modi dissidents for a change. He apparently saw Advani’s support for Modi as an “affront” to him. Vajpayee had wanted to get rid of Modi long ago.
Sources said Vajpayee’s statement was not so much a show of support for Khurana as a warning to Advani not to run the party through “manipulations” and without consultation. Vajpayee reportedly made it clear that the crisis would end only if Modi was sacked.