The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani throws, only Atal can catch

New Delhi, Feb. 11: Only an intervention by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may now be able to save the Indian cricket team’s tour of Pakistan scheduled next month.

The home ministry, headed by L.K. Advani, is believed to be against the tour for security reasons. So is a section of the BJP and the RSS, which wants the tour to be put off until after the elections.

They are citing security concerns while pressing for postponement, but are more anxious that the government play a risk-free game till the polls.

RSS sources said: “We have no problems with resuming sporting ties with the neighbour. After all, the atmosphere is conducive now. But cricket is another game altogether. When India lost to Pakistan in a recent hockey match (in Kuala Lumpur), there was not even a murmur. But cricket, imagine if India loses, what will happen' Passions are so high that the last time Pakistan lost a match to India, the Pakistan team could not return home for several days.”

How postponement of a tour will help defuse this “passion” is difficult to see — India-Pakistan matches will always have an extra edge. BJP sources admitted there are “political concerns”.

“If something untoward happens, if India is about to win and the spectators start heckling, it will be bad for us. The feel-good factor will get eroded,” a source said.

This argument was hammered into a minority group that favoured the tour.

So far, the Prime Minister has refrained from expressing a view and it appears highly unlikely that when Advani is recommending — even though there is nothing official about it yet — a postponement, Vajpayee will overrule that view.

The only consideration that may weigh with Vajpayee is that deferment of the tour could be seen as a blow to the process of normalisation of relations.

But, finally, the risk of a tour to poll prospects will outweigh all other considerations.

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