| (From left) Vajpayee, Naidu and Advani at the meeting. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 18: L.K. Advani seemed to have unwittingly scripted the drama leading to M. Venkaiah Naidu's resignation and his anointment as BJP president when, a month ago, he told a TV interviewer that if the UPA government ran its term, he and Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be too old to lead the party.
The cat was set among the pigeons with the BJP's celebrated GeNext at each other's throats. First, Pramod Mahajan zealously guarded his turf in Maharashtra and made it clear that central leaders, barring Vajpayee, Advani and Sushma Swaraj, were unwanted in the campaign.
A nettled Uma Bharti, who expected her tiranga yatra to set Maharashtra aflame, accused Mahajan and Naidu of sabotaging it. Naidu, who his confidants claimed was never in favour of the yatra, had tried to pre-empt it by putting Sushma on the Savarkar satyagraha in Port Blair.
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, a Mahajan protege, refused to receive Uma when her yatra entered the state. Uttar Pradesh leader Rajnath Singh did not welcome her either.
With the Maharashtra polls weeks away, the scab had peeled off to expose the rot in the BJP's second rung.
The elections over, several questions crossed the RSS' mind: Why did Mahajan's famed 'micro-management' not work on home turf' Would Arun Jaitley, as prabhari, be able to wrest Bihar from Laloo Prasad Yadav' Would Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh pull the BJP out of the Uttar Pradesh morass' What would the party's ideological line be' Why did development not work either in the Lok Sabha or the Maharashtra elections'
Sources said the RSS had made it clear that it would give the BJP time only till the Maharashtra polls. In the event of a loss, the RSS would be more interventionist and not watch its political progeny wither away. Advani was left with no choice but to jettison GeNext and take over the party.
Sources said an organisational shake-up is likely by early November and while nothing 'drastic' would be done, the results would be evident.
The first question on top of every BJP member's mind is what happens to Mahajan' Sources said Mahajan and Sanjay Joshi are likely to be dropped as general secretaries. Ananth Kumar and Bandaru Dattatreya are expected to be brought in.
At the office-bearers' meeting today, Mahajan reportedly made no offer to resign and neither were fingers pointed at him. Officially, the party maintained its performance in Maharashtra with a 50 per cent 'strike rate' was satisfactory but its ally, the Shiv Sena, with 39 per cent had let it down.
Vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi known as Naidu's 'eyes and ears', may be dispensed with and the other 'Muslim face', Shahnawaz Hussain, currently a national secretary, 'promoted'. Hussain is an Uma confidant.
With Naidu out of the way, Uma's rehabilitation is a certainty. Advani reportedly believes that, unlike Naidu, she is a mass mobiliser and will prove useful in taking on Laloo Prasad in Bihar.
About Vajpayee, sources said he would remain the NDA's 'Bhishma pitamah'. The 'moderate' face of the BJP, Vajpayee will be wheeled out whenever the party feels the need for 'secular' and 'minorities' votes and wheeled in when hardline Hindutva holds sway.