New Delhi/Lucknow, Sept. 11: A formal expulsion order served on Madan Lal Khurana last night suggested a worsening of the crisis in the BJP, but a compromise formula seemed to be emerging to resolve an unprecedented open conflict between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.
Sources said Khurana would offer the BJP president an unconditional apology for attacking him in public and Advani would consider rescinding his expulsion.
Speculation about a compromise effort making progress was reinforced by Vajpayee’s statement in Lucknow that he had no differences with Advani.
“There have been speculative media reports that we have some kind of differences. I do not know from where people come up with such conjectures... We have been working together for so long and would continue to do so,” he said.
Vajpayee added that political opponents were trying to take advantage of a sensitive situation, but “these elements should not be given any chance to weaken us”.
Travelling in Madhya Pradesh, Advani would not comment on the developments.
Earlier in the day, Khurana rushed to Vajpayee’s house after receiving the formal expulsion letter before the former Prime Minister left for Lucknow. Another visitor was Pramod Mahajan who has been acting as a mediator.
BJP sources said Jaswant Singh, the former finance minister, and Rajnath Singh, a general secretary, were working on a solution that would not undermine Advani’s authority and would redeem Vajpayee’s status as the party’s number one.
They said Khurana, who had publicly attacked Advani and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, would be asked to “publicly express his regret” for his repeated assertions that he would not work under Advani’s leadership.
It seems Vajpayee himself conveyed this to Khurana.
A public apology, the sources said, was the least Khurana could offer to allow Advani to open the door again for him to the BJP. For the past week, Khurana has been saying he had not received his expulsion letter and, therefore, could be taken back. A party leader said this was not possible because it would mean a loss of face for Advani.
“His powers would have been undermined because it was tantamount to signalling that anybody could say anything about him and get away with it. The expulsion order signifies that disciplinary action was taken against him and what follows will be political damage control,” he said.
According to the Jaswant-Rajnath script, Khurana might make a public statement tomorrow morning. Advani will ask his general secretaries if they will reconsider the expulsion so that the exercise is imbued with the spirit of “consultation and consensus” he has been accused of violating in the recent past.
One of Vajpayee’s major complaints against Advani is that the BJP chief used his stature to fight the RSS after the Jinnah controversy, but after securing a reprieve, he re-grouped his estranged acolytes and gave Vajpayee the short shrift.
But the Khurana dispute, if resolved, will not signal an end to the battle. Vajpayee would claim Modi’s head next. The knives are already out for Modi after civic poll losses.