The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal sermon to RSS on free thought

Ahmedabad/New Delhi, Sept. 25: A week after Lal Krishna Advani told the Sangh to lay off the BJP while announcing his departure as party president, Atal Bihari Vajpayee opened his mouth to accuse the RSS of trying to “limit the thought process”.

Without naming the Sangh, he said: “Our friends have made an attempt to limit the thought process. It is not necessary that all of us accept it (ideology) in the same form as others.

“There can be no restriction on thoughts, which is a constantly evolving process. There should be room for fresh thoughts and ideas,” Vajpayee said at the party headquarters here at a ceremony to mark the 89th birth anniversary of ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.

The reference was possibly to the Sangh’s declaration of open war on Advani after his statement in Pakistan where he said Pakistan was a reality that could not be denied and described Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a politician who had started out with secular credentials.

In the ensuing struggle between the Sangh and Advani, who was seen to be trying to take a moderate path, the party chief has had to surrender. There were reports after the national executive in Chennai that he might have been able to withstand the pressure had Vajpayee been with him.

In the ideological battle with the Sangh, Vajpayee was with him, but relations between the two suffered a setback in the run-up to the national executive where Advani announced his decision to step down. Vajpayee went public with his disapproval of Advani expelling Madan Lal Khurana without consulting him.

Today’s comments by Vajpayee indicate that whatever might have happened between them, he continues to stand with Advani in the bigger, ideological war.

“It is difficult to pinpoint the final principle of any ideology. It is, therefore, not right to adopt an attitude that what we have accepted as the final principle of our ideology is the ultimate truth,” he said.

“It is essential that our ideology stands the test of being beneficial to humankind as a whole'. Thought process will evolve constantly. Exchange of ideas will also take place. The process will not come to a halt at any time.”

On his annual pilgrimage to the Somnath temple, Advani was not present when Vajpayee spoke. The BJP chief’s trip this time was a low-key affair, with the big rally that had been planned earlier cancelled.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, beset with dissent, did not accompany the party chief as he usually does. Advani has been coming here since 1990 when he made his Somnath-to-Ayodhya yatra.

After performing puja, Advani ' pressed by journalists ' said: “Today I’m here to pray with those millions of people in the country who want the Ram temple to be built.” Then, with a “Jai Somnath” he was gone.

The official reason cited for cancelling the rally was heavy rain in Saurashtra but there were fears of a poor response because of the rebellion in the state BJP.

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