The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tower tag & iron man rise to bury furore

New Delhi, June 6: Ruffled by the dent made in the BJP’s image by M. Venkaiah Naidu playing the “development man” against the “iron man”, party veterans have stepped in to correct the impression that the equation between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy is under strain.

A senior leader close to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has proposed that from now Prime Minister Vajpayee should be projected as a “shikhar purush” (towering man) rather than a “vikas purush” during the BJP’s campaign.

“It is an all-encompassing label which would do justice to the Prime Minister’s achievements on his recent foreign tour…. It is also comparable to the term lauh purush (iron man) used for Advani,” he said.

Another old-timer, J.P. Mathur — also close to Advani — had egged on the BJP to felicitate Vajpayee on Wednesday. Advani’s sympathisers also advised him to speak in favour of Vajpayee to counter the perception that he was “deliberately” letting the controversy linger.

Accordingly, Advani broke his silence before embarking on his 12-day US-UK trip and blamed the media. “Sometimes I feel like laughing about how controversies are made (in the media) without any basis. I didn’t comment and I don’t want to comment.... There is absolutely nothing in it.”

Sources said Advani was “extremely unhappy” with Naidu for dragging him into the saga. “He probably thought he could please Advani with his comments but in fact it has backfired,” a source said.

The BJP chief has reportedly been advised by Advani and RSS patriarch H.V. Seshadri to stay away from the media for a while.

But Seshadri’s counsel was bypassed by his own spokesperson Ram Madhav in a news conference today in which he kept calling Vajpayee “vikas purush” and left the election leadership issue ambiguous.

Although Madhav was mandated to speak on anti-conversion only, he took every question willingly. “Lauh purush or vikas purush is not significant.... Both are equal in the RSS’ eyes and we have the same respect for both.”

When prodded, he said: “Society has given Advani the title of iron man for over 10 years because he led the Ramjanmabhoomi andolan. In the last four years, he took unprecedented measures to combat terror.…”

As for Vajpayee, his stand was: “For the last 50 years, he got his identity from being a liberal. When you run the government for five years, you get identified as a vikas purush….”

On leadership, he said: “Elections are over a year away, so where is the question of who will be the next PM' In any case who are we (the RSS) to decide' Who should lead the country for the next five years will be decided by the party. The party has said it would be Vajpayee and we don’t have any objections to that.”

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