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Vajpayee supports Rajnath's reshuffle

Vajpayee comes out openly in support of Rajnath?s reshuffle to stop internal war, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 20:47 IST

Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee on Thursday came out openly in support of the reshuffle of BJP team undertaken by Rajnath Singh, which saw the removal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from the BJP parliamentary board and Arun Jaitley as chief spokesman.

Giving a clear message to all senior leaders to end the internal war over the changes, Vajpayee said "I am happy with the new team. It (Singh's team) was formed after a lot of thought. Rajnath Singh has done his best to taken everyone along."

Vajpayee was responding to TV reporters on the sidelines of a painting exhibition by late Osho Rajneesh’s niece, Pratiksha, which opened at AIFACS Buildings in New Delhi.

"All such notions are false," he said when a reporter asked whether Singh’s reshuffle triggered disaffection within the party. "There is santoolan (balance) in the team…and it remain so even after criticism."

Vajpayee’s remarks underscored what a majority of BJP officials had been saying for the last three days – that the most significant of the changes were done by Rajnath Singh only after getting the approval of the former PM and the parent body, the RSS.

Singh spent at least two weeks discussing the reshuffle with Vajpayee, LK Advani and the RSS before announcing it on Monday.

Signficantly, prior to Vajpayee’s remarks, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar circulated an official denial of reports that Advani had pressurised Rajnath Singh for removing Sanjay Joshi from the post of general secretary (organisation).

"This is totally baseless and unfounded. He was relinquished from office duty on his personal request," the BJP press release added.

Advani wanted the party to issue a denial as he had told Rajnath Singh that he did not wish to be involved in the making of the team, which was the prerogative of the BJP president.

Notwithstanding Vajpayee’s stamp of approval, Rajnath Singh was expected to discuss with RSS leaders Mohan Bhagwat and Suresh Soni on ways to ease tension in the party. A fresh work assignment for Joshi who retained the membership of the BJP executive was likely to be worked. A BJP official said Jaitley may also be retained as the in-charge of the media cell even though he is not the chief spokesperson.

Modi has already been drafted for electioneering along with other BJP chief ministers for the polls to be held in Punjab and Uttarakhand.

Joshi’s exit as BJP general secretary (organisation) had come after nine months since he returned to the powerful post after he got a clean chit from the Madhya Pradesh police over the issue of a sleazy video compact disc (VCD) showing him and a woman. Joshi, who did not see eye to eye with Modi during his stint in Gujarat, was forefront of the campaign to force Advani out of the office of BJP chief following his remarks on Jinnah.

Consequently, it was presumed by man BJP men that Advani would be happy at his exit, which was on the cards since the RSS, which reinstated him in April, feared that the Congress could rake up the issue again, hurting the BJP’s efforts to rebuild the organisation.