The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh dictates terms of return

New Delhi, June 9: Under severe pressure from the Sangh, the BJP tonight prepared an amended resolution that would request Lal Krishna Advani to recall his resignation without supporting his remarks on Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

After the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh declined to approve any draft that tried to even explain the context of Advani’s laudatory comments, changes were carried out to make the resolution acceptable.

It endorsed Advani’s Pakistan trip, but was critical of Jinnah, apparently without any word of support for the BJP president’s statement in Karachi.

Advani had earlier insisted on the party backing him on his remarks on Jinnah.

“This is the best we could have done. Either Advani accepts it or does not. The ball is in his court, he will have to decide if he wants to quit or not,” said a source.

Advani met Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat today. Shekhawat is an elder statesman who is respected in the Sangh as well.

For the record, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav maintained that Advani’s resignation as BJP chief was a “matter for the party to decide” but insisted that the Sangh’s “misgivings” on his praise for Jinnah “should be removed”.

“People in the BJP understand what reservations we have, what our stand is and we are sure they will keep this in mind when drafting the resolution,” Madhav said, asked what would satisfy the RSS, leading to a resolution of the leadership crisis in the party.

“We cannot accept that Jinnah is secular,” he added.

The BJP parliamentary board, scheduled to meet this evening after Advani was to have announced his “formal” response to its rejection of his resignation, put off the meeting until tomorrow. The ostensible reason was the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaswant Singh, will return tomorrow from Israel and his presence is “necessary”.

“Advani is sentimentally attached to Singh and if he requests him to stay on, perhaps he will,” said a source.

Asked about tomorrow’s meeting of the parliamentary board, Madhav said: “Advani knows what we want. He will do what is appropriate. We hope tomorrow it will be over.”

According to BJP sources, the RSS spoke its mind because of the perception or feedback that Advani was fast losing support in his party after he refused to yield on Jinnah. After Yashwant Sinha ' who the sources claimed was “put up” by the Sangh ' senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi aired his dissent publicly today.

Joshi said Jinnah was “responsible” for the killings of lakhs of people after Partition and had always pursued the theory of separatism. He added that nobody in the BJP had had a rethink on Jinnah and none had called him “secular” either.

Joshi said he and Advani had “mutual differences” on the issue and the Sangh’s ideology would not be compromised. Asked if the crisis would be resolved, he merely smiled.

Unlike in the past, when a statement remotely critical of Advani from Joshi used to be quashed instantly, the BJP was silent this time. “Joshiji has raised an important matter and we expect it will be debated tomorrow,” said a party leader who was one of his strongest detractors in the past.

BJP sources said the reason why a dominant section went against Advani was the “virtual ultimatum” served by the RSS. “The Sangh conveyed if there was anything overtly supportive of his Pakistan visit in the resolution, it would sunder its links with the party,” said a source.

While the estrangement would not affect Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Advani, others, the source added, would have to pay a price politically. “Minus the Sangh’s infrastructure and support we are nothing,” the source admitted.

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