For a divided Bharatiya Janata Party, the leak of the Liberhan report may breathe fresh life into L.K. Advani’s leadership and unite warring groups in the party.
Until a few days ago, the party was finding it difficult to accept the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s pushing for an ‘outsider’ — BJP's Maharashtra state president Nitin Gadkari, as successor to outgoing BJP president Rajnath Singh.
There was also palpable tension between the RSS and “the Delhi Four” — Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar — and between them and Singh after they were told they would be kept out of the race.
But all that seemed to change with the “leak” of the Liberhan report on Monday for the party that was gripped by an internal crisis since it lost the Lok Sabha polls six months ago.
Advani finds himself suddenly back at the helm of the BJP’s fight-back options: just a few weeks ago the RSS was putting pressure on him to hand over the baton in Parliament to a younger leader.
The RSS as well as the BJP would need Advani more than before to defend the Sangh Parivar and the party on the issue of the Babri Masjid demolition, in Parliament and outside, said BJP officials, who sensed equations within the party change again.
“Who is best to defend the RSS and the BJP on the Ram temple issue other than Advani?” asked a party functionary.
Also, the report may not have indicted former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee directly other than holding him responsible, along with Advani and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, of leading the country to the brink of communal discord.
But BJP leaders saw an opportunity in the report naming Vajpayee, who was the party’s moderate face, to build public opinion in its favour.
The day saw Advani and senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Naidu, Jaitley and Swaraj come together to decide on the party’s next strategy.
“Though distressed by the demolition, I am proud of my association with the Ram Mandir movement,” Advani said, adding that his life’s ambition is a “bhavya Ram mandir” (grand Ram temple) at Ayodhya.
The BJP knows it cannot revive the Hindutva issue that pitch forked it in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But any fresh action by the CBI against Advani and other BJP leaders can generate its own momentum, say party leaders.
Advani too seemed more than ready to face what he called a “challenge” if he were indicted.