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Advani resigns, Rajnath takes over as new chief

Advani will remain Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. Can Rajnath lift BJP's sagging morale?

india Updated: Dec 31, 2005 19:25 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

LK Advani on Saturday stepped down as the BJP President. He will be succeeded by senior leader and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh.

Rajnath will take over as the new party chief on January 2.

This was Advani's third stint as BJP President. He took the charge last year. However, he will remain the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the party said.

The veteran leader said he had sent his resignation to senior Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, which has been accepted.

"I had announced at the Chennai meeting of the BJP National Executive that I will step down as President. I have done so," Advani said addressing a press conference.

Advani said there had been consultations within the party after his decision to step down in which Rajnath Singh's name was finalised as the new president.

"I present to you Rajnath Singh, the new BJP President and extend my best wishes to him," Advani said.

Advani garlanded Rajnath and offered him sweets. He expressed confidence that under his leadership, the party will touch new heights.

Describing Singh as a dedicated worker, Advani said he had displayed his administrative abilities as a Minister in Uttar Pradesh, as Chief Minister of the state and as a Minister in the Vajpayee Government. "He is a popular leader and under his leadership, the party will grow by leaps and bounds," he said.

Advani said the party faced difficulties and these were not due to the shortcomings of the party or the ideology but due to the "behaviour and conduct of some of our own colleagues."

While the IQ of some leaders were very high, their EQ (Emotional Quotient) was very low and the difficulties arose because of them, he added.

He said equally important was MQ (Moral Quotient) and SQ (Spiritual Quotient).

Maintaining he was satisfied with the outcome of the conference, he said "I do not judge the outcome solely by headlines but by its intrinsic strength".

Advani said Rajnath Singh would formally take over as BJP President on Monday, January 2 at the party's Ashoka Road Headquarters at 9:30 am.

Besides Advani, senior party leaders would be present on the occasion.

In response to questions, Advani said Rajnath Singh's tenure would be till February 2007 but since he has not completed the full tenure, the party's national council can re-elect him as party Chief for another three years.

Charging the UPA government with taking the threat of terrorism lightly, Advani said the attack on the Indian Institute of Science was not a small matter.

The gravity of the incident should not be judged by the number of casualties, he said.

Advani said that the terrorists had made it known that their target was anything that signifies India's success.

He said Bangalore, with its Information Technlogy sector was a success story of the country and hence a target of terrorists.

He also charged the Congress with "doing nothing" to check the increasing threat of terrorism.

"They refuse to see what is happening ... There is no coherent policy to combat terror," he said adding "what can you expect from a government which scrapped POTA."

Taking credit for the extradition of underworld don Abu Salem, Advani said it was made possible due to the determined efforts of the NDA government.

"It were the determined efforts of the NDA government that led to the extradition of Abu Salem," he said.

Advani also demanded to know what efforts the UPA government was making to extradite Dawood Ibrahim, the key accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.

"I have a question for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. What efforts is the Government making to extradite Dawood Ibrahim," he said.

He said the concerted efforts of the NDA government also resulted in Dawood Ibrahim being named as an international terrorist by the United States.

Asked about his critical remarks against RSS at the Chennai national executive, Advani said he had not made any reference to a meeting or discussion.

"I had stated that an impression has been created that the BJP cannot take any decision without the endorsement of the RSS and this needs to be removed. In the last three months, attempts have been made by both sides to remove it", he said.

Asked whether he would continue to take part in day-to-day affairs of the party, he said it would be the prerogative of the President to decide.

To a question whether he would be the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the run-up to the next general elections, he said, "it will depend on what the party wants me to do. Even when I was not the party President and the Leader of the Opposition, I was one of the faces projected by the party".

About former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's announcement that he would not continue in electoral politics any more, Advani said that was due to his poor health but added "I have not made any such declaration".

He made a scathing attack on the CPI (M) in West Bengal saying if democracy was to be strengthened in the country, you cannot have a situation that exists in the state where "they have managed to subvert and totally replace the bureaucracy with the party".

On Vajpayee's remarks that Advani was Ram and Pramod Mahajan Lakshman, he said Mahajan was sitting next to him and "I don't think anything more needs to be read into this".

In his brief address, Rajnath Singh said in 1905, Bal Gangadhar Tilak had given the clarion call of Swaraj being the birthright and a century later, the party would take Advani's call for "Suraaj (good governance), Suchita(probity) and Suraksha (security) as the mantra in its onward march".

While Vajpayee and Advani's inspiration would continue to be the "motivating force" for the party, the cooperation of lakhs of its workers would be the "driving force", he declared.

He said the party began its journey on an ideological path and he will take it forward on that path.

Advani said at the silver jubilee convention, the party recalled its journey of 25 years, made an assessment of the goal traversed so far and envisioned the goals yet to be reached.

First Published: Dec 31, 2005 11:29 IST