The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party dashes Uma’s crown hopes
- BJP says Gaur’s chair is safe

New Delhi, Oct. 17: In a rebuff to Uma Bharti, the BJP’s central leadership has ruled out replacing Babulal Gaur as Madhya Pradesh chief minister.

“There is no proposal before the party for any change of leadership,” general secretary Arun Jaitley said after a meeting party president L.K. Advani held with senior functionaries at the BJP headquarters.

Indicating that no disciplinary action would be immediately taken against Uma, Jaitley said the “party does not approve the mode of signature campaign being publicly expressed”. He was referring to an alleged letter Uma’s supporters had written to Advani urging him to reinstate her as chief minister.

Jaitley stressed that Advani had not received any letter. “The legislators can speak in internal forums or to the president. The BJP’s disciplinary tradition and norms do not approve of the mode of expressing things in the press,” he said in reply to a question on how MLAs were supposed to articulate their demands before the high command.

Asked if Gaur would lose the chair after the Bihar elections, he said: “There is no discussion of leadership change.”

Advani has sought a detailed report from Madhya Pradesh BJP president Shivraj Singh Chauhan about the goings-on in the state. “The party does not speak to state presidents through the media,” Jaitley said.

Asked whether Uma would campaign in Bihar ' she was mandated to assist Jaitley as the “saha prabhari” (co-in-charge) ' he replied: “All leaders are welcome to do so.”

Sources said the main reason for leaving Gaur alone was the assessment that a change in Bhopal would encourage dissidents in other BJP-ruled states like Jharkhand, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

“It will prove one thing: if you want to get rid of a leader, a signature campaign is good enough,” a source said.

Second, Gaur is from the Yadav caste and the BJP leadership feared his exit could reinforce the theory in the Bihar elections that the party is “anti-backward castes”.

“Not that Gaur is a factor in Bihar or anything. But if Laloo Prasad Yadav makes an issue of the fact that a Yadav CM was sent packing, it could upset our ally, the Janata Dal (United),” a source said.

Third, the BJP sought to dispel the RSS’s apprehensions that Advani would make significant changes before his departure to “reassert his authority”.

The Sangh, sources said, has signalled to him that for the three-odd months he is around, he cannot make any changes. His successor has the “prerogative” to reconstitute the team of office-bearers and the various decision-making bodies like the central parliamentary board and the national executive.

The meeting of senior functionaries was meant to restore the spirit of “collectivity and consensus” in the party which, the RSS and a large section of the BJP felt, was missing with either M. Venkaiah Naidu or Advani at the helm. The complaint was that a cabal of “loyalists” decreed what would and would not happen without taking majority views into consideration.

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