The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Godsend for party: Sangh

New Delhi, Sept. 19: The BJP and its fountainhead, the RSS, today saw the fallout of the Rae Bareli court order differently.

This was evident in the body language and “off-the-record” comments of the players concerned, especially BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu. He should have looked happy when news of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s exoneration came in. But he was grim, much like his confidant and party general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

The developments should have come as a reprieve for Naidu, considering that yesterday, the rumour mill had it that he might have to “gracefully” exit if Advani resigned and perhaps returned to head the party if he was charged.

Naidu’s lack of enthusiasm was partially explained by the reaction at the RSS’ Jhandewalan office. Reliable sources said Sangh leaders would make a strong bid to install Murli Manohar Joshi — who quit as human resources development minister — as BJP president in the run-up to elections.

Today, everyone from sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan to colleagues Mohanrao Bhagwat and Madan Das Devi urged Joshi to reconsider his resignation. But Sangh sources said they had “reasons to believe” he would not.

“He would want to work for the party. We see it as a godsend because in an election year, it is always politically desirable to have a leader from the heartland as the party president.”

They listed his other advantages. “In our country, anyone holding a public office earns more respect if he steps down. And in this case, it is not for moral turpitude but for a cause on which the foundation of the BJP was laid. He will be respected as a martyr for the temple cause.”

The RSS, which always cited Joshi’s ministerial stint with approval because he pushed the “Hindutva” agenda in education and culture, claimed his disconnect with the BJP would not be a hurdle.

“He was party president earlier and it was under him that the BJP won a record number of Assembly elections,” sources emphasised.

But the atmosphere at the houses of Joshi and Advani, after the verdict, showed the apparent mismatch between the BJP and the RSS views of the developments.

At the deputy Prime Minister’s home, Union ministers and BJP leaders and workers poured in, sweet-box in hand. The only minister to call on Joshi was Ravi Shankar Prasad.

A RSS source said: “The BJP has become besotted with power. If this is how they are going to view their leaders, our heartfelt sympathies to the party.”

Advani’s position in relation to the RSS came down a few notches. Its sources wondered why the temple movement’s “hero” was suddenly “coy” about openly owning up to his participation. Even BJP sources in private wondered how the spearhead was not charged while others who played a lesser role were indicted.

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