Sulking Jaitley skips meet again

Party leaders say crisis may blow over now, but the Jaitley-Rajnath rift may lead to a blame game post-polls if the results are a disappointment. Shekhar Iyer reports.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2009 01:12 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

Arun Jaitley stood his ground and again stayed away from the BJP’s central election committee meeting on Tuesday, an indication that the crisis in the party over a controversial appointment has deepened.

The party general secretary has been protesting against Delhi businessman Sudhanshu Mittal being made in-charge of the northeast.

Party leaders, however, said the worst is yet to come and the issue is not limited to party chief Rajnath Singh’s appointment of Mittal.

For now, they said, the crisis may blow over as most of the selection is done and the committee may not meet again. Also, senior leaders will get busy with campaigning. But the knives will be out after May 16, when results are declared. That’s when the blame game will begin.

The trouble in the party may hit the ceiling if the results are a big disappointment. While Singh’s supporters will blame Jaitley, his backers will point fingers at the manner in which the BJP president ran the organisation, said a party official.

Jaitley did not turn up for the meeting — where names for key states, including Gujarat and Delhi, were decided — after Singh made it clear he could not go back on Mittal’s appointment.

He conveyed to LK Advani and other leaders that he would, however, carry out his task as chief strategist and in-charge for various states. Advani, the party’s PM candidate, termed the controversy a “minor” issue.

Jaitley said he had made his point and it was for the BJP now to look into the issue of letting the use of money power by people of controversial background, who he said, were gaining centrestage.

Besides Jaitley, Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa also stayed away due to differences with Ananth Kumar. Kumar had earlier boycotted the meet objecting to ticket being given to CM’s son.

Singh, meanwhile, has said that he could not go back on his decision to appoint Mittal, which was done after taking into account his role in forging the alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad. He also told leaders that Advani had not yet objected to the appointment.

BJP insiders traced the rift between Jaitley and Singh to the days when the latter replaced Advani as party chief in early 2006. Advani had to step down on the RSS’s orders because of his laudatory remarks on Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Singh was appointed BJP chief after the late Pramod Mahajan lobbied hard for him with the RSS and convinced AB Vajpayee and Advani that he was the best bet. Mahajan wanted to keep out other contenders, including Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and, of course, Jaitely.

Over the months, ties between the two improved though Singh’s decision to strip Jaitley of the chief spokesperson’s role in 2007 remained a sore point.

First Published: Mar 18, 2009 01:09 IST