The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP disowns Atal balm for Rahul

New Delhi, June 7: Fearful of more revelations in the Rahul Mahajan scandal, the BJP is scrambling to distance itself from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s comments offering sympathy and help to the young man.

After the former Prime Minister described Rahul’s actions as “mistakes made in youth” and spoke of the BJP giving him “a new direction”, senior spokesperson Sushma Swaraj went on air twice in 24 hours to virtually contradict him.

“Vajpayeeji is an elder statesman and he is, of course, always right. But the BJP has nothing to do with this affair,” Sushma insisted.

Vajpayee, too, had been careful to stress that the BJP wasn’t involved in Rahul’s actions, but his statement ' seen as virtually condoning the young man’s lifestyle ' have set off a debate in the party. Most party colleagues support Sushma’s stand.

A senior leader today told The Telegraph that Vajpayee had made a “terrible mistake” by coming to Rahul’s aid.

“Rahul Mahajan is not a teenager whose escapades can be dismissed as a mistake made in youth. He was being considered for a responsible position in the party. Vajpayeeji made a terrible mistake,” he said.

BJP leaders are convinced that the party should distance itself from the late Pramod Mahajan’s “affairs” now more than ever.

Pramod’s personal life used to be discussed in hushed tones in the BJP even when he was alive. After his murder ' with mystery still surrounding the reason why brother Praveen killed him ' party colleagues are living in perpetual fear of more skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard.

“This is not the end of it. We don’t know what is going to come out. But whatever it is, it won’t be favourable for the party,” a BJP source close to the Mahajan family said.

Many in the party feel there is more to Vajpayee’s defence of Rahul than mere sympathy for a family in crisis.

Some say it was a call from Pramod’s wife Rekha to Vajpayee that led to his public statement in Rahul’s support. Some others believe that the proximity of Vajpayee’s foster family to Pramod and his “gang” was the reason.

“Vajpayeeji is not known to (go out of his way to) protect anyone’s interests'. Why then did he make that statement' There is more to it than meets the eye,” a senior leader said.

“Mistakes are often made in youth when you fall in bad company. Rahul has also made one,” Vajpayee had told reporters in Manali on Sunday. “We’ll try to set it right. Efforts will be made to give a new direction to Rahul.”

The veteran politician had stressed that “the party has nothing to do with this episode” but added that “we’ll definitely try to improve Rahul”.

Asked if the BJP might give Pramod Mahajan’s son a role in national politics, the former Prime Minister had left the issue open, suggesting Rahul would have to “achieve this with hard work and talent”.

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