May 29: Lal Krishna Advani said today he would continue as BJP president, adding that the Sangh had officially endorsed the position.
Advani made the comment in an interview to STAR News in the context of a statement by Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan nearly two months ago that the BJP’s ageing leadership (Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani) “should step aside”.
“More than embarrassment (Sudarshan’s comment) to the BJP, it was the RSS which officially declared that Advani must continue,” he said in the interview.
The statement scotches speculation about his stepping down, a possibility that arose after Sudarshan’s comments with Advani himself apparently offering to resign.
Asked in the interview if he did, indeed, think of quitting, Advani replied: “I will not comment on what I had thought of at that moment. But I spoke to sarsanghchalakji and he said that he did not mean it.”
Sudarshan had said later he had been quoted out of context as a firefighting exercise got under way. Senior Sangh leader Mohan Bhagwat said the RSS was of the firm view that Advani should continue.
Within days, Vajpayee rekindled the controversy with his reply to a question if Advani should move out after Sudarshan’s statement.
“That Advani himself will decide and the party will decide,” he said.
Advani holds two positions ' of party president and the leader of the Opposition ' though the BJP is an advocate of one leader, one post.
“I took over as the BJP chief only after the whole party backed this decision,” Advani said in the interview.
Like Sudarshan, Vajpayee had blamed the media for misinterpreting his comments. The fire died down when both sides held their silence.
“We have developed better understanding and trust among various factions of the Sangh,” Advani said.
The controversy could erupt again if the Sangh or Vajpayee chose to inflict a hairline fracture on that trust.