| A boy talks to a policeman on guard outside a closed shop in Vadodara on Thursday. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Sept. 26: Younger BJP leaders today peppered elder statesmen L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi with uncomfortable questions at a meeting of the party’s national executive called to discuss the fallout of the temple killings.
Party sources said neither Advani nor Joshi acquitted themselves with any degree of conviction or confidence. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was fortunate enough to escape the ire of the national executive as he was preoccupied with official engagements finalised much before party president M. Venkaiah Naidu last evening convened the meeting.
If the top leadership came under attack from within, voices in the larger parivar, such as Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and the VHP, also accused it of being ineffective. “We will prefer to quit the government rather than sit and watch the country being insulted,” agencies quoted Thackeray as saying.
The VHP, angry with the BJP for staying away from its Bharat bandh call, said the party had “isolated itself from popular sentiments and would have to pay the price for it”.
Advani shared details of the attack inside the Akshardham temple with the executive and was quoted by Naidu as saying: “Our enemies have a perverse attitude because they are disappointed that nothing happened like what followed the Godhra incident.”
“The incident is part of the proxy war going on against India and that war has to be won,” he added.
But Advani had to contend with a volley of questions from ministers like Arun Shourie, Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy. They asked:
nWhat is the use of constantly talking about an “aar paar ki ladayi” (battle to the finish) when India did nothing after major strikes like the December 13 attack on Parliament, the Kaluchak massacre in Jammu and the bomb blast at the Jammu railway station'
“Either we cross the LoC and attack them or stop making such statements,” a member said.
nHow much longer is India going to act at the US’ bidding'
nWhat has the home ministry done about issuing multi-purpose identity cards and the citizens’ registration scheme it has been talking about for four years'
nWhat is the point of trumpeting how the NSG commandos did such a “good” job when it was a question of dealing with only two terrorists, who in any case, managed to kill one commando and two Gujarat policemen and scores of devotees before they were shot dead'
nWhy doesn’t India train and prepare fidayeen (suicide attackers) and send them to Pakistan instead of being at the receiving end all the time'
Members emphasised that “there was a lot of anger in people and if that was not channelled properly, the consequences would be dangerous for the country and the BJP”, the sources said.
Asked if the executive would have been as stormy if Vajpayee was present, a senior member declared: “Yes, because it is high time we stopped being defensive and told our leaders exactly what people think of them.”
Advani told the meeting that based on available information, the two suicide attackers were between 20 and 25, were not local Gujaratis and came prepared to hold devotees hostage for a fairly long period as dry fruits and chocolates were recovered from their bodies. He said the Urdu leaflets that were found mentioned “Gujarat Hind”, which referred to the settlement of Gujarati migrants in Karachi.