New Delhi: Sidelined and left out in the cold by a party that he had nurtured since its infancy, Bharatiya Janata Party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani on Monday came out with all guns blazing by announcing his resignation from all party posts in a strongly-worded letter to party President Rajnath Singh in which he criticised leaders for trying to project themselves at the cost of the organisation.
But the manner in which Advani resigned after giving the BJP National Executive in Goa a miss to protest against Modi's elevation also raise several questions. The BJP leadership perhaps miscalculated his antipathy towards Modi while Advani too failed to see the writing on wall as at 85 years, he is not exactly seen as a leader who can lead the party to power at the Centre.
The party, which was celebrating the elevation of its most popular leader Narendra Modi to the Election Committee chief on Sunday, plunged into deep crisis as soon as the Advani letter bomb exploded, stunning not only party leaders but also taking the entire political spectrum by surprise.
Advani made it clear that he is no mood to accept Modi as the party's face for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as he found it "difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going". Rajnath Singh and several party leaders including Sushma Swaraj rushed to the 85-year-old's residence in a bid to placate him and to change his decision.
However, sources said that Advani, the tallest leader in the party after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, rejected the requests of senior leaders of the party to take back his resignation. BJP Parliamentary Board huddled into an emergency meeting on Sunday evening and declared that it had refused to accept Advani's resignation and had asked him to withdraw the same. Significantly, Advani continues to be Chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party and Working Chairman of NDA.
In the one-page resignation, Advani said, "For some time I have been finding it difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going. Most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas." Advani had skipped the three-day deliberations of the party in Goa over the weekend citing health reasons. This was the first time Advani had stayed away from the National Executive and the office bearers' meeting prior to it.
Advani rued the BJP was no longer the "same idealistic party" created by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh and Vajpayee. "All my life I have found working for the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party a matter of great pride and endless satisfaction to myself," said Advani in his resignation letter.
"I have decided, therefore, to resign from the three main fora of the party, namely, the National Executive, the Parliamentary Board, and the Election Committee. This may be regarded as my resignation letter," the letter said.
Even Gujarat Chief Minister Modi, whose promotion to BJP Central Election Committee chief prompted Advani to take the drastic step, requested the stalwart to withdraw his resignation from the party posts. "Had a detailed conversation with Advani ji on phone. Urged him to change his decision. I hope he will not disappoint lakhs of Karyakartas," Modi tweeted. In the midst of media speculation over his absence that was ascribed to his reservations over Modi's elevation, the Gujarat Chief Minister claimed on Sunday that he had talked to Advani and got his blessings.
The resignation of Advani brought the split within the party out in the open and stunned BJP leaders into silence. The dramatic development also brought the fault line in the NDA to the surface.
Important BJP ally JD(U), already not enthused by Modi's elevation, received with surprise Advani's decision and indicated that it will have to review its position in the wake of these developments. Party President Sharad Yadav said Advani's resignation was a serious issue and not good for NDA's health. JD(U) will convene its own meeting and decide how to go ahead, he said.
BJP's oldest ally Shiv Sena said Advani's decision was painful and "one cannot think of NDA or BJP without Advaniji." Party chief Uddhav Thackeray said Advani must stay within the BJP at any cost. Interestingly, the editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' today welcomed Modi's elevation and said that "85-year old leadership" cannot bring BJP to power in Delhi.
"The average age of Advani and his other colleagues in the party is 85 years. The 85-year-old leadership cannot bring the BJP to power in Delhi. Therefore, if a new tactic is being launched by pushing Modi forward, it should be welcomed," the editorial said.
Another ally, Akali Dal, which has whole-heartedly welcomed Modi's elevation, was non-committal over Advani's decision, saying it was internal matter of the BJP. The RSS described Advani's decision as unfortunate and hoped the party leaders will persuade him to take it back.
Congress, meanwhile, sought to give a different twist to Advani's resignation by suggesting that he was atoning his "political sin" of defending Narendra Modi after the Gujarat riots in 2002. Party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed also said that Advani was "deliberately humiliated" by the RSS by elevating Modi as he had opposed attempts to bring back Nitin Gadkari as BJP chief due to graft charges against him.
Ahmed also took a dig at the BJP over the manner in which Advani had to quit wondering as to what sort of Ram Rajya the saffron party wants to usher in where the father is being sent to 'vanvaas' (exile). Advani is always referred as a father-figure in the BJP as also 'Bhishma Pitamah'.
During the day, hectic parleys were on among the BJP leaders. Swaraj accompanied by SS Ahluwalia went to meet Advani, who was also met by other party leaders including Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. BJP President's residence was also a hub of activities where leaders trooped in for consultations. Naqvi, after his meeting with Advani, said things will be sorted out soon.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)
I have not accepted Shri Advani ji's resignation.— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) June 10, 2013