Advani relents after RSS intervenes; Modi hails decision

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) A day after he quit key leadership posts and hit out at his colleagues, veteran L.K. Advani Tuesday made a dramatic u-turn after the RSS intervened to end the BJP’s worst ever crisis that could have harmed its political prospects ahead of the 2014 polls.

The apparent climbdown by Advani came after Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat persuaded him to reverse his decision to quit the BJP’s national executive, the parliamentary board and the election committee – indicating the growing clout the party’s ideological parent clearly enjoys.

Advani’s decision to relent was immediately hailed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

In a tweet, Modi said: “I had said yesterday that Advani ji will not disappoint lakhs of Karyakartas. Today, I whole heartedly welcome his decision.”

The announcement that Advani would stay on was made at his residence by BJP president Rajnath Singh and other party leaders but the former deputy prime minister did not meet the media.

Rajnath Singh later said that he had “requested” Advani not to be present “as it would have been against common etiquette”, and the concerns raised by him would be addressed.

Making the announcement, Rajnath Singh said: “Today afternoon, Mohan Bhagwat spoke to Advaniji and asked him to… continue in the (party posts in) national interest. Advaniji has decided to accept Bhagwatji’s advise.”

Rajnath Singh’s statement was a tacit admission that the BJP, which Advani helped found in 1980 along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had failed to win him over after he quit party posts in a huff for ignoring his concerns and naming Narendra Modi as head of the party election campaign committee, and it was the RSS that still calls the shot.

The statement by Rajnath Singh also contradicted the Bharatiya Janata Party’s earlier stand that the RSS had no role to play in Advani’s resignation. Sources said that Advani was miffed at the RSS extending support to the Gujarat chief minister as the BJP’s face to lead the party in the Lok Sabha elections.

“On behalf of the party, I assured Advaniji that his concerns regarding the functioning of the party would be addressed and I will discuss the modalities of addressing these concerns with him,” said Rajnath Singh, one of the most vocal backers of Modi.

The BJP president was flanked by Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Uma Bharati and other senior leaders.

The BJP decision to elavate Modi, 62, which was made Sunday at a party conclave in Goa, makes the Gujarat chief minister the face of the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – a la Advani in 2009.

Advani did not attend the three-day conclave, claiming that he was ill. It was for the first time in his political career that he missed an important BJP meet.

But even as the party was celebrating Modi’s elevation, Advani stunned everyone with his resignation letter.

Immediately after he quit the party posts and accused most party leaders of pursuing “personal agendas”, the BJP brass trooped to his house in the heart of the capital but Advani refused to budge.

Rajnath Singh had declared Monday that Advani’s resignation from party posts would not be accepted.

The meetings between BJP leaders and Advani continued Tuesday too, with some of them insisting that the crisis would soon blow over.

More than the resignation, what hit the BJP badly was Advani’s stinging allegation in his resignation letter that the BJP was no more the “same idealistic party”.

He also said that he was finding it difficult to reconcile with the BJP’s present functioning or the direction it was taking.

Earlier Tuesday, BJP leaders went out of their way to deny that Advani was miffed because of the RSS backing to Modi, whom Advani had once mentored.

In the end, however, the RSS had to come to the BJP’s rescue.

Although Modi is widely popular in the party rank and file, a section of the BJP – including its various state units – is sympathetic to Advani, who along with Vajpayee was for decades seen as the face of the Jana Sangh and the successor BJP.

Reflecting a widely held view in the party, Shahnawaz Hussain said Tuesday: “He (Advani) has played a major role in building the party, and I am sure he will continue to bless us.”

The war within the BJP had also found an echo in the larger BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Both the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal-United are unhappy over the manner Advani was isolated in the BJP.

K.C. Tyagi of the JD-U had said the NDA is “on ventilator and needs oxygen from Advani”.

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