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Race in BJP to be Patel's shadow

Rajnath sounds tougher and tougher but Advani won't let go opportunity either, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2006 22:29 IST

The race in the BJP to sound hawkish and follow the RSS on key issues has never been more pronounced since LK Advani quit president's post and Rajnath Singh succeeded him.

BJP leaders say whether it is granting clemency to Parliament attack convict Mohammed Afzal, crackdown on madrassas or busting ISI-terror groups across Pakistan border following the Mumbai blasts, Rajnath has always sought to show that he advocates a tough line.

In comparison, Advani has never been able to regain the old image of "Loha Purush" (the Iron Man) since his controversial remarks on Pakistan founder Jinnah in2005 that saw the RSS force his exit.

Nevertheless, Rajnath and Advani have never missed an opportunity to eulogise Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who is the hero of the RSS as well as the BJP.

On Sardar Patel's 131st birth anniversary on Tuesday, Rajnath and Advani graced separate functions organised by their supporters. Rajnath addressed a Sardar Patel Jayanti organised by representatives of the Gujjar community led by Attar Singh Bhadana.

On the other hand, Advani released four books authored by Sardar Patel at a function organised by Prabhat Prakashan.

Significantly, Rajnath and Advani had the same thing to say about Sardar Patel whoearned the title of Iron Man as Home Minister of nascent India by forcing 600-odd princely states including recalcitrant Hyderabad and Junagadh.

Both said the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and subsequent menace of cross-border terrorism would have never reared their heads had Sardar Patel, instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, been the Prime Minister of India after 1947.

Rajnath said it more directly while Advani quoted veteran parliamentarian HV Kamath as saying that "if Sardar Patel had been allowed to handle Kashmir as Home Minister by Pandit Nehru and Gopalaswamy Ayyangar who had taken away the subject away from him, the problem of its integration would have been solved a long ago."

Similarly, Advani said, Rajaji was of the view that "if Sardar Patel had become Prime Minister in 1947 and Pandit Nehru as Foreign Minister, such problems like Tibet, China war of 1962 and Kashmir would have never occurred."

While Advani refused to comment on the Afzal issue, Rajnath attacked the Congress for delaying the hanging because of considerations of Muslim votes.

When Advani was handling home affairs as Deputy PM in the Vajpayee government, his supporters always hailed him as "Loha Purush" in the shadow of Sardar Patel.

That epithet led to Venkaiah Naidu even once calling Vajpayee as "Vikas Purush", leading to a crisis in BJP. Vajpayee had then hinted at his withdrawal, saying Advani should lead the party.

Now, supporters of Rajnath in the RSS and BJP say that, with Advani and even Vajpayee not willing to appear hawkish, it is the BJP president who is doing the tough talk.

First Published: Oct 31, 2006 22:00 IST