The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani stays course

Chennai, Sept. 16: The ghost of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the shadow of the RSS and the enemies within loomed over the BJP national executive which began here today.

The meeting is the first after BJP chief L.K. Advani’s Pakistan trip that created conflicts in the Sangh parivar and nearly cost him his job.

As Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan landed unexpectedly in Chennai with one of Advani’s key adversaries, Murli Manohar Joshi, the significance was not lost on the BJP meet.

Sudarshan is supposed to be here for an eye check-up. There were reports his second-in-command, Mohanrao Bhagwat, was with him.

Advani said in his presidential speech how the RSS was the catalyst in the creation of the Jan Sangh and the BJP and how this symbiotic relationship had created the ideology of cultural nationalism. But he was also strong in defending his Pakistan visit.

His speech was a first of sorts for the BJP in that it marked a reversal of the party’s Pakistan policy. Stating that his visit was meant to “remove any impression that we in the BJP are permanently opposed to the country” without endorsing Partition, Advani quoted Atal Bihari Vajpayee to say “it may be possible to change history, but we cannot change geography”.

Outside, pestered for an answer whether Advani will continue to hold the posts of both party chief and leader of Opposition, Vajpayee replied: “Why not'”

All day this question hung over the meet. There was a rumour that 11 executive members had urged him in writing for a discussion on one-person-one-post.

Advani’s speech was re-affirmation of his Lahore address that it was time Pakistan was accepted as an “independent and sovereign” nation. The RSS objected, saying it went against its concept of Akhand Bharat.

Although there was no mention of Jinnah in his address, he conveyed to the RSS he was not apologetic about what he had said about the founder of Pakistan in Karachi. Copies of a booklet containing his Pakistan speeches were given to every member.

The booklet had an address he had made in Karachi, invoking the late Swami Ranganathanandaji of the Ramakrishna Mission to speak of the “secular” phase of Jinnah’s career.

“We need not be apologetic about promoting friendship with Pakistan or for welcoming the moderation that is coming up there, however faint the glow may be now,” Advani said.


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