The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP: From five-star to open bath

Mumbai, Dec. 25: The BJP starts its silver jubilee session tomorrow amid speculation about whether the party’s national council would endorse its next president Rajnath Singh’s candidature during the session.

Besides the choice of Rajnath as the new president, the high-profile session is marked by a distinct austerity of style associated with the RSS.

Despite the flamboyant Pramod Mahajan being the chief organiser of the gala event, the celebrations have been deliberately kept low profile.

Taking the cue from RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan’s open criticism of the “five-star culture” that the BJP came to be associated with, Mahajan has gone to great lengths to pre-empt another cause for confrontation with the Sangh.

As a result of this policy, none of the delegates has been booked in any five-star hotel and the celebrations are publicised through posters and banners pasted on local buses.

The main event ' the national council meeting ' will be held at a venue named “Maharishi Vyas Pandal”. Questions have been raised about the movie set-style surroundings but party leaders said they are made of “just cardboard and not extravagant at all”.

The delegates will be staying in tents, a throwback to the Jan Sangh era. “The venue for these tents is called Sudama Niwas (named after Krishna’s pauper friend). Each tent will have six cots,” said party spokesperson Prakash Javdekar.

This is unlike the usual national executive sessions where delegates used to enjoy club-class comforts. But this time, not only do the delegates have to stay in the Sudama Niwas tents, they get to eat “only vegetarian” food served at a venue aptly named Shabari Bhojanalaya.

Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is known to enjoy his prawn curry and other non-vegetarian delicacies, will have to partake of only vegetarian fare. “There will be no special items on the menu. Delegates will be offered pure vegetarian fare ' dal, chawal and roti,” said a BJP functionary.

Male delegates will have to bathe in the open but bathrooms will be provided for women. “There is privacy for female delegates. But the rest of us will live and bathe like the common public,” said a party leader.

The senior leaders, however, will be put up in Rang Sharda hotel in Bandra. “Even this hotel is not five-star,” a party leader went out of his way to point out.

There is talk of Rajnath’s candidature being approved by the national council, which will begin its session after the national executive gets over.

Notwithstanding the denials issued by L.K. Advani and Venkaiah Naidu, there is little confusion in the ranks about Rajnath taking over. “It is a question of when. You will know soon,” said a party leader.

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