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Changes in BJP leadership by early next year: sources

delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2009 19:29 IST
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might witness significant leadership changes by the beginning of next year, reliable BJP sources said on Saturday.

This could involve the graceful exit of star leader L K Advani, who has come under attack from an array of MPs and others, as leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the sources said.

But the sources insisted that these changes would come about only after upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, most likely to be held in October.

"The changes will definitely be made but not before the assembly elections and more likely by the beginning of next year," a veteran leader said on the condition of anonymity.

The changes would take into account the conflicting claims of the party's two main factions now owing allegiance to Advani and party president Rajnath Singh.

"If Advani relinquishes the post, then the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha will be someone chosen by him while a Rajnath Singh appointee will become party president. Or it will be vice-versa," the source said.

Among the prominent leaders, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, M Venkaiah Naidu, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje reportedly belong to the Advani camp.

Murli Manohar Joshi, a former BJP president, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh are said to be on Rajnath Singh's side.

The sources said a day after the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, admitted that the BJP was facing a major crisis but expressed hope that it would emerge stronger soon.

No one in the BJP was formally ready to comment on the possible leadership changes.

"I have no comments," BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Prakash Javadekar, another spokesman, told reporters that the BJP did not discuss leadership issues with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Friday.

But a string of party leaders have met Bhagwat in recent days, and BJP and RSS sources insist that the BJP's state of health came under review.

The BJP was thrown into turmoil after it dramatically expelled veteran MP and former cabinet minister Jaswant Singh for praising Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in a book authored by him and released this month.

A furious Jaswant Singh then hit out at Advani, accusing him of lying over the 1999 Indian Airlines hijacking to Afghanistan that led to the release of three jailed terrorists in exchange for the safe return of passengers.

Later, Rajya Sabha MP Arun Shourie publicly called the BJP a "kati patang" (adrift kite) and urged the RSS to take over the party.

Former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra also attacked Advani over the hijacking episode, and drew immediate support from both Jaswant Singh and another former cabinet minister Yashwant Sinha.

Separately, former chief ministers Vasundara Raje of Rajasthan and B C Khanduri of Uttarakhand have also denounced the party for forcing them out of leadership positions in their respective states.

The unprecedented turmoil has shaken up the BJP, which in May suffered a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections when it was hoping to unseat the Congress.