The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani faces ‘stupidity’ fire
- Glare on Opposition leader role; note of caution for ‘tallest’ towers

Mumbai, Dec. 26: Lal Krishna Advani seems to have upset a large section of the BJP and the Sangh with his comment on the MPs involved in the cash-for-questions scam that they had committed an act of “stupidity”.

This statement, coupled with his widely criticised strategy in Parliament for the last two sessions, has raised strong questions about his ability to continue as leader of the Opposition.

The Sangh is reportedly seething at the manner in which Advani chose to defend the MPs. “What we are subjecting them to is capital punishment in parliamentary parlance. They were being stupid. But the punishment is not commensurate with their crime,” Advani told the Lok Sabha as under his leadership the BJP chose to walk out while the House expelled 10 members.

Half of a dozen of the MPs were from the BJP. There are also three more involved in the constituency development scam that followed the cash-for-questions revelation.

So widespread is the anger against Advani’s remarks that some delegates fear it may get raised in either the national executive or the national council meeting. “We were seen to be shielding the corrupt. How can a party with a difference take that stand before the entire nation' This is shameful,” said a senior BJP leader.

There are strong feelings in the Sangh, too. The issue has added a sour note to the ongoing celebrations meant to provide a graceful exit to Advani. “If it is stupid to be caught taking bribes, then all of us should be stupid,” said a senior leader sarcastically.

Party sources said Advani made that statement in Parliament because he was under pressure from individual MPs who felt angry and threatened by the one-sting-operation-a-week routine of TV channels. There were reports that more such operations by news channels were in the pipeline.

It is also true that, though Parliament had reacted with outrage to the cash-for-questions scandal, the mood of the House turned hostile after the second expose that followed in quick succession.

Advani’s statement might have reflected that sentiment because the BJP was the hardest hit by the scams, though other parties kept the feeling under wraps.

Other events that put a question mark on Advani’s continuance as leader of the Opposition are:

His decision to boycott Parliament on the issue of tainted ministers during the monsoon session. The BJP took the blame for stalling Parliament without making any impact

The strategy of resistance adopted by the BJP on the Constitution Amendment Bill for reservation in private unaided educational institutions. All the allies deserted the BJP on this issue.

Besides his perceived failed strategies in Parliament, Advani’s stock is so low in the Sangh at the moment that it is believed to be in favour of slowly easing him out of this position. A campaign seems to have already started.

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