Sulking Advani quits posts, jolts BJP

BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley speak to the media after the party’

BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley speak to the media after the party’

A day after the euphoria, the rift in the BJP erupted into the open with an ignored, snubbed and humiliated saffron patriarch Lal Krishna Advani resigning Monday from all key positions in the party in protest against the elevation of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi as head of the party’s campaign committee for the Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP parliamentary board, which met here Monday evening following the crisis triggered by Mr Advani, rejected his resignation and urged him to withdraw it. However, the party, backed by the RSS, did not offer any compromise formula or face-saver to placate its old warhorse.
Making it clear that the decision to elevate Mr Modi was “non-negotiable”, the party has so far refused to acknowledge the Advani camp’s demand to set up a parallel election committee for the coming Assembly polls. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, while speaking to the BJP president on Monday evening, made it clear there was “no going back on Modi”. But he urged Mr Singh to continue efforts to persuade Mr Advani to withdraw his resignation. BJP general secretary Murlidhar Rao, who is also a RSS man, will be meeting Mr Advani to urge him to take back his resignation.
Mr Narendra Modi also tweeted that he had called up Mr Advani and urged him to take back his resignation. “Spoke to Advaniji in detail and urged him to review his decision,” Mr Modi tweeted.
Earlier, Mr Advani had asked the BJP chief “not to bring Mr Modi to his residence”. On Monday, Mr Modi was expected to meet Mr Advani and seek his blessings and brief him on deliberations at the Goa national executive meeting.
Around 10.30 pm Monday, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley went to Mr Advani’s residence to try persuade him once again. At this meeting, Mr Advani reportedly asked them not to announce any PM candidate. He felt the BJP had given indications that it was trying to project Mr Modi as its “face” in the coming general election. It may be recalled that Mr Advani, 85, has not yet given up his aspirations for the PM’s post.
Mr Advani’s move to resign from the parliamentary board, central election committee and national executive has already damaged Mr Modi’s chances of leading a united party in the coming elections. His decision to quit has also triggered a major crisis in the NDA, with key ally JD(U) exploring the possibility of snapping ties. Mr Advani, while resigning from all BJP posts, has till now retained his post as NDA working chairman and chief of its parliamentary party.
In his resignation letter to BJP president Rajnath Singh, Mr Advani, whose opposition to Mr Modi’s elevation was ignored by the party, criticised the BJP and accused it of carrying out the “personal agenda” of its leaders. “I no longer have the feeling this is the same idealistic party created by Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji, Pandit Deendayalji, Nanaji and Vajpayeeji, whose sole concern was the country and its people. Most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas.”
On Monday afternoon, Mr Advani’s sudden move caught the BJP unawares and shook it to the core. Around 1 pm, Mr Singh rushed to Mr Advani’s residence as he got the resignation letter. An angry Mr Advani simply refused to withdraw his resignation. Mr Singh urged Mr Advani not to take the ultimate step, saying he would call a meeting of senior leaders to discuss his objections. What upset the BJP was Mr Advani’s next step, of releasing the letter to the media and triggering the crisis within. It was learnt on Sunday night RSS general secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi had spoken to Mr Advani had virtually pulled him up for his rigid stand against Mr Modi’s anointment. The RSS leader asked Mr Advani to “rise above his personal ambition and think of the party”. He also pointed out that Mr Modi’s elevation was the demand of the entire BJP and RSS cadre.
Mr Advani’s decision also rattled his hardcore supporters. Ms Sushma Swaraj, one of Mr Advani’s closest aides, was completely unaware of this decision. “I had no idea. I am surprised. I had no idea Advaniji will do such a thing,” Ms Swaraj said while rushing to the patriarch’s residence. After the letter was released to the media, the BJP chief did not again visit Mr Advani.
Throughout the day all party leaders and functionaries trooped in and out of the residences of Mr Advani and Mr Rajnath Singh. Mr Advani has so far stayed adamant and refused to withdraw his resignation.
At around 7 pm, the parliamentary board met at Mr Singh’s residence. After showing a picture of unity, all board members appeared before the media and the party chief announced: “The board is of the opinion that ever since the inception of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Advaniji has been our leader and guide. The role inevitably belongs to him. The party and the nation needs his sage advice and guidance today more than ever before. The parliamentary board decided to reject the resignation of Advaniji.” Mr Singh was flanked by Ms Swaraj, Mr Ananth Kumar, Mr Jaitley, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu and Mr Ram Lal.

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