The rift in BJP was on Monday wideopen with LK Advani quitting from all the party posts, apparently opposing the elevation of his one-time protege Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as election campaign committee chief.
85-year-old Advani, a founder member of the BJP and considered the party patriarch after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, resigned from all main fora of the party -- Parliamentary Board, National Executive and Election Committee.
In his resignation letter to party President Rajnath Singh, who announced the appointment of Modi as Chairman of the election campaign committee on Sunday in the BJP National Executive, he rued that the BJP was no longer the "same idealistic party" created by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh and Vajpayee.
"For some time I have been finding it difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going," he said.
"Most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas," Advani said in his one-page resignation.
In the letter, Advani said, "All my life I have found working for the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party a matter of great pride and endless satisfaction for myself".
After finding fault with the way the party was being run now, he concluded the letter saying, "I have decided, therefore, to resign from the three main fora of the party, namely, the National Executive, the Parliamentary Board and the Election Committee. This may be regarded as my resignation letter," he said.
Advani's letter was delivered in person to Singh at 11 am. Advani and Singh had a meeting later at 12:30 pm.
Sources said Rajnath Singh and Modi were to go together to Advani's house and get his blessings. But Advani asked Singh to come alone for a meeting with him. When the two met, Advani expressed anger and resentment over Modi's elevation.
Read Advani's letter to Rajnath Singh
Singh is believed to have requested Advani to withdraw his resignation but the party veteran said he was firm on his decision.
Significantly, Advani continues to be Chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party and Working Chairman of NDA.
BJP rejects Advani's resignation
The BJP's parliamentary board Monday rejected Advani's resignation with party chief Rajnath Singh saying he will never accept it.
"The parliamentary board decided to reject the resignation of Shri Advani-ji," Singh told reporters after a meeting of the board at his official residence in New Delhi.
The parliamentary board recalled contribution of Advani to the BJP and said that his "guidance was needed today more than ever before".
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Rajnath Singh has rejected Advani's letter and efforts are being made to placate him.
I have not accepted Shri Advani ji's resignation.— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) June 10, 2013
"The parliamentary board is of the opinion that ever since the inception of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party, Shri Advani has been our guide. That role inevitably belongs to him. The party and nation needs his sage advice and guidance today more than ever before. The parliamentary board decided to reject the resignation of Shri Advani-ji," Rajnath Singh said.
Rajnath Singh, who was accompanied by the leaders of opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, said Advani had resigned from the national executive, parliamentary board and the election committee.
"As party president, I want to make it clear that I will not accept his resignation under any circumstance," Rajnath Singh said.
He said that parliamentary board meeting was attended by six members who were present in capital.
Singh said that other members of the parliamentary board, including Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and former BKP president Nitin Gadkari, had spoken to Advani and urged him to withdraw his resignation.
From Gujarat, Modi, 62, made a passionate appeal to Advani, 86, to take back his resignation and appealed to the elder not to disappoint "lakhs" of party activists. But Advani refused to budge.
Modi also spoke to BJP president Rajnath Singh and told him that he will abide by whatever decision the parliamentary board, the party's highest decision-making body, takes on the issue.
"Had a detailed conversation with Advaniji on phone. Urged him to change his decision," Modi said on microblogging site twitter.
"I hope he will not disappoint lakhs of Karyakartas (workers)," Modi said.
Modi also tweeted, "spoke to Rajnathji, in such a short time cannot reach the parliamentary board meeting but will stand by whatever decision the board takes".
Had a detailed conversation with Advani ji on phone. Urged him to change his decision. I hope he will not disappoint lakhs of Karyakartas.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 10, 2013
Spoke to Rajnath ji. In such a short time cannot reach the Parliamentary Board Meeting but will stand by whatever decision the Board takes.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 10, 2013
Advani, who led the BJP in the 2009 general election which it lost, kept away from the Goa national executive meet citing poor health.
Advani remains an ordinary member of the BJP.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological parent, called it a "very unfortunate" development. Rajnath Singh tweeted that he had not accepted Advani's resignation.
The BJP's allies were worried. Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said: "It is sad... It is not good for NDA's health."
JD-U leader KC Tyagi added: "It is tough for us to remain a part of the NDA now that the BJP's tallest leader is gone."
The Congress did not hide its glee over the war within the BJP. Spokesperson Renuka Choudhary said: "I'm not surprised. BJP is politically bankrupt, they have sidelined people responsible for building it."
Photos: Advani, man who made BJP
Advani, who some years ago fell out ideologically with the party core for suggesting that Mohammad Ali Jinnah had a secular vision for Pakistan, and the now ailing Vajpayee have been for decades the two pillars of the BJP and its earlier incarnation, Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
Advani joined the RSS in 1947 and the Jana Sangh when it was founded in 1951. He became the BJP president in 1986, when it had only two members in the Lok Sabha, and soon became a strong votary of the Ram temple movement, which culminated in the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992.
The Ram temple campaign helped the BJP to grow and grow, until it finally took power nationally in 1998.
Who said what:
Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-U): "This is not good for NDA's health. I am deeply saddened by the resignation of Advaniji. NDA was forged with the efforts of Atalji and Advaniji.
Janardan Dwivedi (Congress): We have nothing to say on this. This is between the BJP and the person concerned to think and decide. We had already said that this (Modi's elevation) will have many repercussions.
J Jayalalitha (Tamil Nadu CM): It is purely is an internal matter of the BJP. But at the personal level, I will only say that Narendra Modi is a good friend of mine.
Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena): One cannot think of NDA or the BJP without Advani-ji.
Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI): while I disagree with his brand of politics, this is certainly not the way he should have been treated by his party.
Omar Abdullah (J&K CM): If his (Advani’s) opinion didn't matter to you yesterday why is his resignation a crisis for you today?
Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana CM): This shows that all is not well within BJP
Digvijaya Singh (Congress): If Advani had demanded some more time or demanded setting up of two committees what was the problem in waiting? After all they were not going to miss a plane."
Reactions over Advani's resignation:
(With inputs from HT, PTI, IANS)