|Vajpayee quits poll politics
MUMBAI: Senior Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) leader A B Vajpayee stunned his party organisation on
Thursday evening by announcing his decision to quit electoral politics,
simultaneously making it clear that party general secretary Pramod Mahajan
was the leader of the future.
He spoke for only a few minutes,
perhaps the briefest speech he has ever delivered. But what he said was
enough to send party workers into a tizzy.
Mahajan’s supporters were
expectedly in an upbeat mood following Vajpayee’s speech.
Addressing a massive rally
at Shivaji Park to mark the silver jubilee of the BJP, Vajpayee (81) said
he would continue to be in politics and be available to the party.
But he would have nothing
to do with electoral politics anymore. He would not contest any elections,
he declared.Senior BJP leaders said they were completely taken by surprise
at his announcement.
But what was more significant
was his public declaration of his preference for Mahajan.
He compared Advani and Mahajan
to Ram and Laxman, a comparison which didn’t go down well in the Advani
camp given the political stature of the former deputy prime minister.
"I feel like Parshuram at
the 'rajyaabhishek' (coronation) when Ram and Laxman returned to Ayodhya
after their long stint in the jungles," Vajpayee said.
"Parshuram was angry that
the bow was broken before him. But I will not be angry like Parshuram,"
he added.The pointed reference to Mahajan does not mean that he will replace
Advani as the next president of the party.
That role may still go to
Rajnath Singh, as desired by the RSS. But Vajpayee's certificate to him
will certainly be of great help to Mahajan the next time around when the
leadership question arises.
However, a BJP leader with
strong RSS links said not much should be read into Vajpayee's observations
about Mahajan. "Had the meeting been held in Uttar Pradesh, he would have
praised Rajnath Singh.
All that he was indicating
was that the next generation should now take over the party," he noted.
Advani, who had earlier announced
in Chennai that he would step down after the silver jubilee celebrations,
did not give even the slightest signal of his desire to quit
Congress has corrupted
Adopting attack as the best
form of defence, BJP chief LK Advani on Wednesday challenged Congress president
Sonia Gandhi to come clean on her role in the Iraq oil scam unearthed by
the Volcker Committee or quit as the chairperson of the UPA Government's
National Advisory Council. "The Volcker report has only reinforced the
Congress party's utter disregard for probity in public life. It is the
responsibility of every member of the BJP to carry this shameless tale
of sleaze to every corner of India and mobilise people to demand an explanation,''
Mr Advani told the 4,000 party delegates on the first day of the three-day
silver jubilee session. The BJP chief's pointed attack might have been
occasioned by the fact that Sonia Gandhi was in the city on Wednesday.
But it also reflected the urgent need to boost the morale of the party's
rank and file after its current bad patch.
In a bid to galvanise
the party's rank and file, he said it was not necessary that the next election
would be held only after five-years. "If they are held early, the BJP should
not be found wanting." Accusing the Congress and its "ruling dynasty''
of being the fountainhead of all corruption in the country, Mr Advani regretted
that some BJP leaders had also fallen prey to the disease of 'Congressisation'.
"While that does not justify
the actions of some of our own members in the recent scandal involving
Parliamentarians, it reinforces our conviction that unless the Congress
culture is uprooted lock, stock and barrel from our system, the task of
combating corruption will never be accomplished,'' Mr Advani said. The
BJP chief made a candid confession that the party had gone through a bad
patch during the last 25 years. "But that should not make us forget the
ground we have created during the last 25 years and our capability to forge
ahead to greater heights," he said. The party's success in dislodging the
15-year-old Lalu-Rabri regime in Bihar was the latest evidence of this.
Mr Advani and other leaders referred to it repeatedly to drive home the
point that it heralded NDA's impending return to the nation's helm.
While attacking Sonia Gandhi
for remaining silent on how the Congress figured as one of the "non-contractual
beneficiaries" in the Iraq oil scam, Mr Advani asked her to take a leaf
out of the book of her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi.
"Ms Indira Gandhi never
shifted the blame on anybody else...she owned responsibility for even imposing
the Emergency in 1975 but Sonia Gandhi obviously is not in the same league,''
he said. The BJP chief dared Sonia Gandhi to tell the nation how much she
knew about the Volcker report and how the Congress party came to be listed
as a non-contractual beneficiary of the corrupt oil deals. "As the head
of the political party in power and the organisation name as a non-contractual
beneficiary in the Oil-for-Food scandal, Sonia Gandhi cannot feign ignorance
about the dealings of former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh who
had always been claiming that he had kept the party informed about all
the happenings during his Iraq visit," he said.
Mr Advani said that Sonia
Gandhi was welcome to attack the BJP. "But she should shed light on the
Congress connections with the first owned by a 'US fugitive' that handled
the oil quota allotted to the Congress Party and Natwar Singh," he insisted.
According to him, the Congress
had lost all credibility and emerged as the B-team of the Marxists. "Both
the Congress and the Left parties have nothing in common but anti-BJPism,"