New Delhi, April 30: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will go into a huddle with the Sangh brass for three days beginning tomorrow at the Chandiwala mansion in south Delhi’s Okhla.
BJP sources said while Vajpayee will attend the opening and closing sessions on May 1 and 3, Advani is expected to be around all the time along with party president M. Venkaiah Naidu and his five general secretaries, including Pramod Mahajan, Rajnath Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
RSS and BJP sources said the session — labelled as a “review” meeting — would take stock of the general budget and assess to what extent tax concessions announced by finance minister Jaswant Singh today would offset the popular perception of the NDA government as “anti-people and pro-mega industry”.
The other issue likely to dominate is the thaw in Indo-Pak relations. Two views have cropped up in the RSS, indicating that a clear position may not be easy.
One functionary said: “The RSS was critical of the Agra talks only to the extent that they were unstructured and without a fixed agenda. This time, more detailed preparations are evident. It looks like India would go with an agenda. Moreover, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is much more under control than during the Agra summit. Once Pakistan scales down the intensity of cross-border terrorism and declares it is not directly responsible for the terrorism, other things can be sorted out. You cannot have an enemy by your side for 50 years. We have to be realistic about this.”
The other opinion, expressed by a senior office-bearer, was more cynical: “It’s the familiar drill of going one step forward and taking two steps backwards. India must be cautious in dealing with Pakistan given its past experience.”
On economics, while the RSS welcomed the sops for the power loom and garment sectors, it was worried about how well the fast-track reforms path taken by the Centre in the last three years would go down with the people.
However, Sangh sources noted the “change” in the government’s stand. “Of late, the Cabinet meetings show that they have gone slow on divestment. A major sector like civil aviation would not be disinvested. It looks like labour reforms have been put on hold. There’s also a question mark on whether oil majors HPCL-BPCL would be disinvested or not. We have also heard that more and more senior ministers have started speaking out against disinvestment in the Cabinet of late and the pro-privatisation voices are not so strong.”
VHP working president Ashok Singhal is likely to attend, but there is a question mark on whether swadeshi ideologue Dattopant Thengadi would. Thengadi had attacked the Prime Minister in a recent public meeting, saying Vajpayee was like Jaichand and Mir Jafar.