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Hint of rift after BJP leaders visit Rahul

Some feel, party has an obligation to Mahajan family, writes Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 10:51 IST

Call it a sign of a belated sympathy or sharp differences within, but the concern shown by BJP president Rajnath Singh when he visited Rahul Mahajan in hospital and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee's defence of the young man seem to be gaining approval among senior party leaders.

BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and former head of the party's UP unit Kalraj Mishra visited the son of late Pramod Mahajan at the Tughlaq Road police station on Thursday before he was remanded to 14 days' judicial custody.

Later, when Venkaiah Naidu passed by the police station, right next door to his 30, Aurangzeb Road residence, waiting media persons thought he would drop in as well. However, Naidu did not go in. Rahul was away in court at that time.

Naqvi's visit is in sharp contrast to the assertions made by BJP's deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj that the party had no role in the matter, despite Vajpayee's support to the Mahajan family.

Swaraj's approach, seen by many BJP leaders as "too harsh" given the circumstances, is said to have the consent of Leader of Opposition LK Advani who did not make any comment nor favour any action by the BJP on the issue. Some also noted that Swaraj's comment could be read in the context of the terms she had with Pramod Mahajan.

On the other hand, Naqvi and Mishra denied that they had acted to please Vajpayee or anyone else but only to share "the feelings of hundreds of BJP workers" who were upset that the Mahajan family appeared to have been left alone in their hour of crisis.

The duo's argument was that the party had an obligation towards the Mahajan family without appearing to be interfering in the process of law. It had to be demonstrative of its concern, and not shy away from the family, which would only demoralise the cadres.

It is no secret, however, that Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde spoke to Vajpayee and Rajnath that the family was deeply hurt by the comments of Swaraj, who has not said a word about the trauma the family has been undergoing since the tragedy on June 2. Rahul's mother, Rekha Mahajan, is also believed to have spoken to Vajpayee.

Praising Rajnath for visiting Rahul at the hospital, Naqvi said, "We don't have to be ashamed of the episode. It's not as if the Mahajan family has been caught in a case of treason. We cannot treat them as terrorists or traitors."

He added, "A party with a difference does not mean that we wash our hands of the family of any leader or worker in their hour of crisis. Even if the son of any senior leader gets carried away, we will help him recover instead of pushing him into the ditch."

In an interview to Outlook magazine, Naqvi even termed the police probe as "one-sided" and wanted an investigation into the conspiracy angle.

Naqvi did not hide the fact that many BJP leaders did not agree with Swaraj's stand. "I do not know when and where the decision (to distance the party from the family) was taken. But Pramodji and BJP were never viewed separately. Then how is it possible that we distance ourselves from his family after his death."

Naqvi said, "Rajnathji visited the hospital, which touched the hearts of party workers. Every party worker expects moral support in his hour of crisis. After the party's official stand, even Vajpayeeji had said that anybody could make a mistake...The party should stand by Mahajan's widow and children and leave the rest to the police."