By declaring LK Advani as BJP’s natural choice for succeeding Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its prime ministerial candidate, party chief Rajnath Singh appears to have stirred a hornet’s nest in the Sangh Parivar.
The latest controversy over the succession issue in the saffron party got murkier on Friday with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) sharply questioning the party president’s announcement and asserting that Advani would not be acceptable to the "self-respecting Hindu masses".
"It seems to me that this announcement has been made in haste...I wish to know clearly from Rajnath Singh if he is convinced that Advani has accepted the Hindutva identity of BJP declared by him. If this is not so, then why has he (Singh) given such a statement? Because I am certain that the self-respecting Hindu masses of the country will never accept the Pakistani version of Advani," VHP central secretary Omkar Bhave stated.
The veteran leader incharge of VHP’s publicity and communications demanded that both Advani and Singh should publicly make their stands clear on the matter if they wanted the support of Hindus.He also questioned why Singh had felt the need to raise the contentious issue at this point of time.
Making no bones about the fact that the VHP had not forgiven Advani for speaking about Pakistan founder MA Jinnah’s secular credentials while on a visit to that country, Bhave asserted that if he continued to hold the same view , there was no way he would get their backing within the Sangh Parivar for the prime ministerial post in the event of the BJP returning to power at the Centre.
VHP supremo Ashok Singhal, on being questioned on the issue earlier this week, had avoided a direct reply. But he had hinted that the VHP had not forgotten how Advani had disappointed them by failing to take up any of the Hindutva issues raised by them when he was the country’s deputy prime minister.
At a time when the all-powerful RSS leadership appeared to have put behind Advani’s "misadventure" in Pakistan and patched up with him, the BJP chief’s announcement has served to rouse the hawks in the Sangh Parivar once again. A day earlier, Advani’s arch contender Murli Manohar Joshi had distanced himself from Singh’s view while another party veteran Pyarelal Khandelwal had contested it saying that Vajpayee should be BJP’s first choice for PM.
Another angle to the controversy is Vajpayee’s displeasure over the hasty bid by Advani supporters to project that he was ready to retire from politics.
A claim to this effect in an editorial in RSS organ ‘Panchjanya’ was quickly withdrawn by the editor Tarun Vijay after Vajpayee conveyed his unhappiness to BJP-RSS leaders on the matter.