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Vajpayee's silence confuses BJP

After having exposed the fissures in the party over the leadership issue, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee retired into a shell of silence on Friday.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2005 03:19 IST

After having exposed the fissures in the party over the leadership issue, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee retired into a shell of silence on Friday. But if his remark — calling Pramod Mahajan the Laxman to outgoing BJP chief L K Advani's Ram — set the party aflutter, his refusal to explain his comments fuelled more speculation.

On Thursday, Vajpayee had said the BJP would be steered by the Advani-Mahajan duo, notably refusing to mention Rajnath Singh — all but officially hailed as Advani's heir-apparent. On Friday, Vajpayee's exit raised eyebrows as he left the conclave venue shortly before Advani was to deliver his valedictory address, complaining of uneasiness and discomfort due to "heat" on the stage.

BJP leaders who had expected him to set the controversy at rest by explaining his comments were stumped. Conspiracy theories flowed freely. Delegates argued that the former PM would have not left the matter hanging if he wanted to retract his statement. When Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh and Mahajan went to the nearby hotel to inquire about his condition, Mahajan asked them to return lest too much be read into leaders' absence. That led many too wonder if Mahajan did not want Vajpayee to clear the air.

An unfazed Rajnath treated Vajpayee's pat for Mahajan as praise for his "charismatic and organizational skills". Even Mahajan said Vajpayee's praise was appreciation for his oratory and management skills, rather than a sign that he was being crowned.

Advani, presiding over his last party convention-one which has gone horribly wrong-- skirted any reference to "Ram and Laxman" in his last address. Staunch loyalist Venkaiah Naidu, however, tried to take the sting off the remarks. If Advani was Ram, as the former PM declared, there were many Laxmans and not just one.

First Published: Dec 31, 2005 03:19 IST