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Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal departs, leaving Ramayan riddle
- As always, bewildered BJP tries to crack the code of Vajpayee-speak

New Delhi/Mumbai, Dec. 30: A temple to Ram at Ayodhya might have eluded Lal Krishna Advani while he headed the party, but in his last days as president he caught a glimpse of the Ramayan through the mouth of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Vajpayee has always spoken in coded language. Whether poetic or not, meaning has been in the eyes of the interpreter.

Yesterday, he might have been at his symbolic best. Some in the BJP, however, say the man is plain unwell, which he probably is as he left the party gathering in Mumbai early today for Delhi, so interpret at your own peril.

Parlous was the way for BJP leaders as they embarked on the trip to make sense of what Vajpayee said while announcing his retirement from electoral politics. Or nonsense, as M. Venkaiah Naidu did, by calling himself Hanuman.

Vajpayee has expressed the desire to retire on two occasions earlier, but this time he called himself Parashuram, Advani, who sat on his left on the dais, Ram and Pramod Mahajan, on the right, Lakshman.

“Like Parashuram, who withdrew during the coronation of Ram after his exile, I too am withdrawing,” he said.

There is little debate over the interpretation that Vajpayee made the announcement to steal the thunder from Advani who would be stepping down in a day or two as party president.

It might also have been a hint to Advani to follow in his footsteps and retire from electoral politics and take Lakshman (Mahajan) on vanvaas.

“He just beat Advaniji to it. We were expecting that he would do it when we celebrate his 1,000-moon celebrations. Nobody expected it. But now it has become clear ill health could have triggered such a reaction,” said BJP sources.

Down the years, health reasons have not been the trigger for Vajpayee’s statements.

His relations with the Sangh were tense when he was Prime Minister. In September 2000, he said in New York: “No one can take away my right to be a swayamsevak.”

A volunteer of what ' the Sangh, the nation' He left it open to interpretation.

On another occasion, Vajpayee as Prime Minister had said in an interview that he would retire if the peace process with Pakistan did not bear fruit. It prompted M. Venkaiah Naidu to call Advani the iron man and Vajpayee the man of progress and say that the two together would lead the party in the next election.

Vajpayee’s response: “We’re neither tired, nor retired. Advani will lead the party in the next election.”

Any attempt at interpretation will be tiring.

Just as the reference to Parashuram is, because there’s no end to it. Parashuram, a Brahmin ' as is Vajpayee, finished off kshatriyas and Rajnath Singh is one.

So, what’s the story' Advani and Mahajan (Ram and Lakshman) go on exile as Bharat Rajnath either rules on Ram’s behalf or Parashuram takes good care of him.

Brahmins of Uttar Pradesh had repeatedly invoked Parashuram when kshatriyas like Veer Bahadur Singh and V.P. Singh were dominant in the eighties.

Speculate at your own risk. How about this' Apparently, Vajpayee, like the Sangh, had preferred Murli Manohar Joshi, a Brahmin, to take over from Advani as party president, but that was not to be.

Was he giving voice to his unhappiness' Decide for yourself.

Anyway, Rajnath had decided that it was a slight to him and, apparently, went into temporary exile by locking himself in his room and refused to meet even his son.

Mahajan wondered what the big deal was since Lakshman didn’t get anything anyway on returning from exile. The view in his favour was that he was honoured with the Lakshman-stamp since he was sitting on one side of Vajpayee.

“Vajpayeeji was merely complimenting Mahajan on his strong organising capabilities,” said a BJP leader.

The pundits commented, though, on how Vajpayee got his Ramayan somewhat mixed up.

Canto 66-76 of the epic describes the confrontation between a young Ram and Parashuram. The two meet when Ram is returning after stringing ' and breaking ' Shiva’s bow Haradhanu and winning Sita. Parashuram, who had already cleansed the world of kshatriyas 21 times, challenges Ram to string his bow, which was the twin of Haradhanu.

Ram does it, and Parashuram surrenders.

“As soon as you took up the bow, I knew you were Madhusudan (Vishnu). There is no shame in being defeated by you,” he concedes.

Vajpayee strayed a little from the epic, but he may have left the rest of the BJP, including Advani, saying that, too.

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