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Vajpayee, Advani refuse to budge

New Delhi, Sept. 10: The Vajpayee-Advani standoff continued today despite the efforts of “well-wishers” like Jaswant Singh, Pramod Mahajan and Rajnath Singh.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee steadfastly refused to “amend” the statement he had made on Thursday obliquely criticising L.K. Advani’s decision to expel Madan Lal Khurana from the party. “No clarification or dilution is necessary,” he told an office-bearer who met him on Advani’s behalf today.

Advani was equally firm that he would not revoke the expulsion. Sources close to him countered Vajpayee’s argument that a senior member like Khurana should have been given time to explain his “conduct”.

They cited how, when he was Prime Minister, Vajpayee had got the party’s principal ideologue, K.N. Govindacharya, summarily sacked as an office-bearer. Govindacharya was thrown out of his room at the party headquarters in less than 24 hours.

Neither leader spoke to the other today and the “meeting” the party hoped for seemed unlikely to happen anytime soon.

A BJP functionary close to Advani said the camp would be closely watching Vajpayee address party workers in Lucknow tomorrow. “That will provide a clue about what is on his mind,” he said.

If there is no “positive” signal from Vajpayee and the deadlock persists, sources said Advani could offer to quit as BJP president at a meeting of office-bearers he has called on Monday. But they were optimistic that things would not reach such a pass.

According to sources, the sticking points are Narendra Modi’s continuation as chief minister and Advani’s style of functioning.

Vajpayee has apparently not got over the way in which Advani and his acolytes 'such as Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar ' let him down in April 2002 after he was assured the party would support his decision to get Modi out as chief minister.

Vajpayee wanted Modi’s head because of the embarrassment the Gujarat riots had caused him and his government.

Modi was to go before the BJP national executive met in Panaji. To his surprise, Vajpayee found that not only had Modi been tipped off by an Advani acolyte, a drama was staged in the opening session to pre-empt the resignation.

Modi offered to step down with a flourish but the gathering said “no” and he stayed put. Vajpayee “fell in line”.

With Advani vulnerable at this point, sources said, Vajpayee has a quid pro quo in mind: either revoke Khurana’s expulsion or let Modi go as chief minister.

The BJP chief, they said, is “unwilling” to oblige because he sees Modi as his strongest buffer against the RSS.

Vajpayee is also believed to be upset at the way Advani has been running party affairs.

“There is no consultation before decision-making,” said a source close to the former Prime Minister. The decision to expel Khurana was taken “at the top” and the disciplinary committee, headed by Ram Naik, was directed to implement it.

Sources said that by issuing his statement, Vajpayee had made the point that “he is an institution and not a pushover”.

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