Ajay Umat, Sunday, March 12, 2006 00:50 IST
AHMEDABAD: Deeply upset with LK Advani for having “humiliated” his successor as BJP president Rajnath Singh, the RSS will not support the twin ekta yatras he announced earlier this week.
RSS chief KS Sudarshan summoned Advani to Nagpur on Friday evening and told him bluntly: “Hamaara aashirvaad nahi hai, aapko jo karna hai karo.”
RSS ideologue Mohan Bhagwat was the only other person present at the meeting at which the yatra plan was presented. Advani was ashen-faced, those who saw him coming out said.
The Sangh is seething for many reasons, all of which were put across to Advani by Sudarshan.
First, he was told, he should not have held his press conference announcing the yatras at the time when Singh was talking to reporters at the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi. This undermined the BJP president, Sudarshan said.
Second, Advani did not consult Singh on the yatras but simply told him of the decision on phone. As BJP president, such announcements are Singh’s domain, Advani was told. Vajpayee never behaved like this, Sudarshan added for good measure.
Third, the routes of the yatras, which Advani will announce to the BJP at a meeting on March 17, favour him over Singh. Advani’s yatra begins in Gujarat on April 6 (the day the BJP was founded in 1980) and takes him through Maharashtra, Goa, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh – all BJP- ruled states.
Singh’s route, which was handed to him by Advani, takes the BJP president from Orissa through Bihar to Uttar Pradesh – all states where the party is in retreat.
Fourth, the yatras will divert attention from the elections coming up in Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala, the RSS felt.
Advani told Sudarshan he could not take the yatras to those states because of the code of conduct and for fear of crossing the Election Commission on the issue of inciting religious hatred. Those states also have big Muslim populations and little logistics support for the BJP, he added.
But the RSS believes the BJP can win Assam on the back of anger against the Congress-Left support to legislation that allows those who cannot prove they are Indian to vote.
These elections are important to Singh’s leadership, the RSS told Advani. They are his first test, and the party should do everything possible to win Assam. Instead, the yatras will pull cadres into non-electoral duty. This appears to be image-building for Advani more than anything else, Sudarshan said.
Advani tried to deflect the attack by saying he would take weekends off from the yatra and fly to Kolkata, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram, Pondicherry, and Chennai to campaign.
As the meeting went on, Sudarshan attacked Advani for other things. He said Advani deliberately delayed his resignation as BJP chief by nine months so that Singh would get only a year and three months at the helm, till March 2007. He also accused Advani of interfering in the BJP’s list of nominations for the Rajya Sabha, which was released on Friday.
The sarcastic Sudarshan said the yatras appeared to be a political gimmick with no obvious end. “Whose ekta are you trying to achieve?” he asked Advani. “Hindu-Muslim? India-Pakistan? Or the unity of parties you are talking to in order to become PM?”
He reminded Advani of the breakfast meeting they had on March 6 at Jhandewalan, New Delhi, where no plan for attacking “Muslim appeasement” was discussed. Advani had only apprised Sudarshan of the party’s position on Iran and other peripheral issues.
He accused Advani of deliberately keeping the RSS in the dark about his intentions. In all the five earlier yatras by the party, the RSS’s regional chiefs and national general secretaries were consulted.
Advani was accused of having lost the sympathy of Hindu voters because of his admiration for Jinnah. “You supported Muslims when in power and now you talk of appeasement,” Sudarshan said. “You disallowed kar seva, promoted the hiring of Urdu teachers in UP and Bihar. In your Himayat Yatra, fighting Lalu in Bihar, you even put up a picture of Musharraf and spoke of Bharat-Pakistan ekta. You even ran to Ajmer Sharif for a fatwa in favour of the BJP.”
A stung Advani was told finally: “You have no credibility. You’re not to take the Sangh agenda forward. Rajnath is.”