New Delhi, July 17: Lal Krishna Advani is president of the BJP and the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha ' as on Sunday night and Monday morning.
The day after is another day ' so don’t expect the party with a difference to say today whether his letterhead will remain unchanged 48 hours from now.
One of the longest ideological soap operas in recent times trudged its way through another episode today, marked by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s signature double-edged opinion, a cacophony of sound bites from the lead players and a visit by Advani to the RSS headquarters that yielded a formal Sangh statement.
The upshot: “We are going to function under Advani’s leadership,” M. Venkaiah Naidu, the embattled BJP chief’s key aide, declared at primetime.
Asked whether Advani would resign later, Naidu replied: “There is no need from our side to comment on the issue.”
But he added that Advani would chair two meetings tomorrow in line with his twin responsibilities ' one on issues to be raised in Parliament and another on a key party session in the south.
That Advani survived as party chief for another day is no mean achievement, considering the grim tidings in the morning.
Breaking his silence, Vajpayee said the BJP was bound by the one-person-one-post norm but added that it was up to Advani to decide which one he wanted ' the BJP chief's or that of Opposition leader.
The clearest indication that Advani will be forced to give up one of the posts came from Vajpayee when he said: “It (Advani holding two posts) was an arrangement and can be changed. It will be changed soon.”
Sources said a “compromise formula” has been worked out. Advani will leave one of the two posts at a time of his choosing ' it could be before the Chennai national executive meeting (which begins on July 21), during the monsoon session of Parliament or shortly thereafter.
But the relinquishment will not stretch till December when the BJP’s 25th anniversary celebrations will culminate in a Mumbai spectacle, the sources said. The “formula” was suggested by Vajpayee and Advani when they spoke with RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan last night.
The day started with Naidu and a BJP general secretary, Sanjay Joshi, shuttling between the BJP chief’s residence and the Sangh office at Jhandewalan. It climaxed when Advani travelled to Jhandewalan with Jaswant Singh to meet the RSS general secretary, Mohanrao Bhagwat, and the joint general secretary in charge of the BJP, Suresh Soni.
Bhagwat issued a statement couched in language the Sangh hoped would convey its message to Advani without sounding direct. “We expressed our desire that serious efforts be made in the coming days to address the sentiments expressed by us on issues like ideology, conduct, organisation, emergence of new generation, etc.”
The statement added that it is the responsibility of the organisations “to bring in necessary reforms. The Sangh shall not interfere in that process”.
The assurance came a few hours after the RSS used a veteran to needle Advani. Former spokesperson M.G. Vaidya disclosed in a column that the Sangh had conveyed to Advani that the overwhelming feeling of its provincial organisers was that he should make way for someone else.