The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lonely Joshi in wait for PM
- Ayodhya ‘martyr’ unsung in party

New Delhi, Sept. 20: All eyes are on Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is expected to take a decision on Murli Manohar Joshi’s resignation from the cabinet after his return from New York as the human resources development minister appeared to get increasingly isolated in the BJP.

The RSS continued to “transmit signals” that Joshi could return to head the BJP in place of M. Venkaiah Naidu and the party viewed the regrouping of .K. Advani and Pramod Mahajan after an eight-year interregnum with interest.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said Vajpayee was in touch with his colleagues and would take a decision “in consultation with them”. Joshi told reporters that Vajpayee spoke to him. “What happened is between him and me.”

The minister, who had just a former Uttar Pradesh Rajya Sabha MP Rajnath Singh for company, said he congratulated the deputy Prime Minister on his acquittal, to which Advani replied: “We will have to fight the (Rae Bareli) judgment.”

Sources close to Joshi expressed bitterness that not one person from the BJP had offered help or even moral support. They contrasted this with how the party rose as one to defend Advani in 1996 when he was implicated in the hawala scam.

Some Uttar Pradesh legislators called on Joshi, but the party, particularly Naidu’s team, turned their back on the minister who had hoped his resignation in the Ayodhya “cause” would make him a martyr.

All that the BJP did was proffer advice not to quit. In Mumbai, Naidu told reporters that “we will convince him to withdraw his resignation”.

Law minister Arun Jaitley said he need not have resigned because the charges against him did not involve corruption or moral turpitude. “It is only a case of unlawful assembly.”

Joshi himself was silent on his plans and said he was leaving for his Lok Sabha constituency Allahabad tonight. Sources close to him said the visit would help him gauge the “popular mood”.

BJP sources began to speculate what his resignation, if accepted, would mean for the party. Although the RSS has evinced an interest in Joshi inheriting Naidu’s mantle when the organisational polls conclude in December, the sources wondered if this was practical given Advani’s sway over the party.

The sources said there is a feeling that in the run-up to the general elections, it is preferable to have a president who will understand the complexities of heartland politics and that Naidu, a southerner, is not the best candidate for the job. However, even the RSS, which was privately gung-ho about Joshi’s resignation yesterday, today had mixed feelings about his ability to head a party which refused to connect with him.

The old guard, including two former party presidents Bangaru Laxman and K. Jana Krishnamurthi, are batting for Joshi.

“But with Advani and his young turks up against this order, the RSS and Joshi will have their task cut out,” they said.

If Joshi goes out, the name of BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan is being mentioned with a degree of seriousness. He was with Advani throughout yesterday when the Rae Bareli court verdict was pronounced.

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