The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani walks Sangh-ally tightrope

New Delhi, Nov. 1: Lal Krishna Advani has decided to press his PR skills into service to keep the NDA allies on his side and also not lose the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's goodwill.

The new BJP chief will speak to NDA convener and Janata Dal (United) president George Fernandes to sort out the 'misgivings' arising from his statements on the Ram temple at the BJP national council last week.

The Dal (U), at its national executive in Ranchi over the weekend, had threatened to snap ties with the BJP if it revived its Hindutva agenda. With the Bihar elections three months away, the BJP, sources said, realises that a consolidated anti-Laloo Prasad Yadav front, including Ram Vilas Paswan, is the only counter that could prevent a fourth term for the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Advani will also attend the RSS' national executive on November 5 and 6 in Hardwar to deliberate on what the parivar's 'political' line ought to be and how the BJP should calibrate the use of Hindutva. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee called on RSS leaders at the capital's Jhandewalan headquarters this morning. This was Advani's second big overture to the RSS. The first was when he attended the 'Vijayadashami' function in the Sangh's base camp in Nagpur.

The decision to attend the Hardwar meet came on a day when Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal hinted that he might launch a separate political party to pursue 'aggressive' Hindutva.

Today, speaking to reporters in Vadtal (Gujarat), Singhal was quoted as saying that the new BJP chief was 'not fit' to be a mass leader and that, at best, his appointment was a 'stopgap' arrangement.

The sources said the RSS and the VHP were reportedly unhappy with the exclusion of Uma Bharti from Advani's team and his explanation that she was on 'vacation' and was, therefore, not inducted.

Singhal and his aides, Praveen Togadia and Acharya Giriraj Kishore, will be present in Hardwar. Though RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said brokering truce between the VHP and Advani was 'not possible' at a gathering of 250 delegates, sources said both would be told that a running spat was 'not good'.

Asked what message the RSS hopes to send from Advani's presence, Madhav said: 'The clear message is we swim or sink together. We want to tell the NDA that as far as the RSS-BJP relations go, we are one.'

On how this might impact the BJP's equation with its 'secular' allies, Madhav's answer was: 'It's a hypothetical question on whether they will form a government in two, three or five years. The basic question is can the BJP give up its ideology' For that matter, can the BJP ask its friendly parties to give up their ideologies' The answer is no.'

However, the choice before the BJP was apparently not so cut-and-dried. Spokesperson Arun Jaitley underplayed Advani's assertion that his party was committed to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya. 'The party believes what he said on Ayodhya in his speech was not against the NDA's agenda in any way,' he said.

He contested the suggestion that Advani's statement that a majority of Indians wanted to see a 'grand' temple in Ayodhya was evidence of a Hindutva comeback. 'Everybody wants a solution and the construction of a temple is part of this solution,' Jaitley said.

The only good news for Advani is that Ayodhya is not on the RSS agenda, unless a VHP representative unilaterally raises it. 'There is nothing new to say on Ayodhya. The future course of action will be planned by the VHP,' Madhav said.

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