The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hint of Advani hand in Uma rebellion

New Delhi/Bhopal, Oct. 16: Lal Krishna Advani seems determined not to quit as the BJP president without a fight, said Sangh and BJP sources in reference to the Uma Bharti-led rebellion that gathered momentum in Bhopal today.

Over a hundred of the 173 MLAs of the party in Madhya Pradesh have communicated their support for Uma to Advani in her bid to unseat the incumbent chief minister, Babulal Gaur.

“Instead of banking on the so-called second generation leaders for support, Advani has turned to those with a mass base to fortify his position vis-a-vis the Sangh. He is looking at Narendra Modi, Uma Bharti and Vasundhara Raje as his new comrades-in-arms,” said a Sangh source.

Uma’s bid to grab the seat from Gaur was accompanied by an attack on senior Sangh functionary Suresh Soni.

The inference that she has Advani’s blessing is based on similarities between the BJP president’s concluding speech at the Chennai national executive and Uma’s letter on Soni. Both alleged that the Sangh was interfering in BJP affairs.

While Advani’s comments were general, Uma cited a specific case in Soni, whom she accused of scuttling her return as the chief minister in cahoots with M. Venkaiah Naidu and Sanjay Joshi, both central BJP office-bearers.

BJP sources said Uma’s well-argued letter bore the drafting skills of a former political aide of Advani.

Asked about the contents of Uma’s letter in Patna, Advani replied: “I have nothing to say on this. What I had to say, I have already said in Chennai last month.”

That does not sound like a condemnation.

The Sangh has apparently decided not to make an issue of Advani’s retaliation ' if that is what it is ' but the BJP has not taken kindly to it.

“He is making a falooda (cocktail) of his authority. If he thinks helping Uma get her chief ministership back will earn him a longer term as the party chief, he is mistaken,” a source said.

The sources added that the Sangh had already won the battle for supremacy. They said with time running out for Advani, Uma was getting desperate. “She knows once he’s out nobody will back her claim.”

“Her only supporters are Advani and Jaswant Singh,” the sources said.

The BJP assessment is that Uma would run out of steam soon, as she had on a previous occasion. Modi and Raje, the Rajasthan chief minister, have reasons to side with Advani against Sangh interference. But, the sources said, in a crunch they were unlikely to desert the Sangh.

Uma, meanwhile, paid what appeared to be a reconciliatory visit to Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan. But she also darkly hinted at pulling out of the campaign in Bihar if she didn’t get her way. She was unwell, she said.

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