Advani back as Leader of Opposition, only for now | india | Hindustan Times
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Advani back as Leader of Opposition, only for now

The BJP came out of mourning on Sunday to re-elect L K Advani, 81, Leader of Opposition in the new Lok Sabha. Advani is only babysitting the position till party president Rajnath Singh’s successor is found. Advani’s first advice to his party was to stop grieving. Shekhar Iyer reports.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2009 00:31 IST
Shekhar Iyer

The BJP came out of mourning on Sunday to re-elect L K Advani, 81, Leader of Opposition in the new Lok Sabha. Advani is only babysitting the position till party president Rajnath Singh’s successor is found.

Advani’s first advice to his party, stunned by the electoral reversal suffered in the elections, was to stop grieving, “self-flagellation, back-biting or allowing fissures in the party.”

But it’s not going to be easy. Not for the party, not for its allies. The Janata Dal (United) accused he BJP on Sunday for the poor poll show — BJP is down from 138 in 2004 to 116; NDA from 191 to 160.

“The BJP raised all wrong issues and this damaged us. They couldn’t take up any real issues touching the common masses,” said JD (U) chief Sharad Yadav (62) who is also NDA convenor, after his party’s national executive meeting.

The defeat has been a setback for the party and Advani who offered to quit as party’s leader in Lok Sabha.

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He was persuaded to stay on till the party could find a successor.

Advani was elected unanimously on Sunday essentially to enable the party’s second-rung leaders and the RSS to sort out the succession line after him in the Lok Sabha and Rajnath Singh (57), as BJP president.

His name was proposed by Jaswant Singh (71) and seconded by Sushma Swaraj (57), and Murli Manohar Joshi (75) from the Lok Sabha and Venkaiah Naidu (59), and Arun Jaitley (56) from the Rajya Sabha.

A decision on Advani’s deputy in the Lok Sabha and the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha was deferred with Rajnath Singh authorising Advani to pick a name.

The BJP’s parliamentary board would meet soon to decide on the government’s offer to the party the post of Deputy Speaker in the Lok Sabha, said Sushma Swaraj, who is tipped to be Advani’s deputy.

But Advani knew his party colleagues were feeling low. And he addressed that by assuring them the leadership will get to the bottom of the defeat and initiate corrective measures.

“No factor will be overlooked,” he said, adding, “We are deeply disappointed with the defeat. We cannot downplay the setback we have suffered.”

Advani said the internal probe would cover BJP’s defeat in Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Orissa and why the party won less than the expected number of seats in Gujarat, MP and Maharashtra.

It would also chalk out expansion plans in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal for the next five years.