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The Rediff Special/Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
RSS vs Advani: Who will blink?
June 09, 2005
The Bharatiya Janata Party is in turmoil.
The party's unity has been threatened like never before.
On the one side is BJP chief Lal Kishenchand Advani, who is under tremendous pressure from his loyalists to give in a little on the issue of his remarks on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
On the other side is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the party's parent organisation, not ready to give in even a little over the issue.
If it ignores Advani's remarks praising Jinnah and endorsing his two-nation theory, the RSS loses its reason to exist.
Also see: RSS unrelenting, deadlock continues
Advani has put his party in an unthinkable position while trying to steer it to a new path of liberal, right-wing politics suitable for the 21st century.
No one in the party, except former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, have endorsed Advani's statements in Pakistan.
At the same time none in the BJP has the guts to sideline Advani completely, such is his contribution to its growth.
These are painful times for loyal workers and BJP well-wishers.
On Wednesday, the party's parliamentary board passed a resolution rejecting Advani's resignation without any mention of the controversial remarks on Jinnah.
Also see: Jinnah was not secular -- Murli Manohar Joshi
Advani was not amused. He wanted much more. He wanted the party to stand with him over his interpretation of Jinnah and appreciate the diplomatic success of his visit to Pakistan.
What will happen on Friday can't be said with any certainty.
As an Advani confidante put it: "The final solution will also depend on words. Advani is likely to continue if a suitably worded resolution is agreed upon."
Advani's dilemma -- should he or should he not dilute the message of peace and reconciliation he delivered in Pakistan. He will have to decide in the next 24 to 48 hours.
On this one decision will hang not only his continuance as party chief, but also his staying as Leader of the Opposition.
Message Board: Was Jinnah secular?
The RSS and RSS-supported BJP leaders like Dr Murli Manohar Joshi want him out at any cost.
For a few of them, no sin is bigger than calling Jinnah 'a great man.'
According to a senior party leader, Jaswant Singh, a liberal voice of the BJP, may finally draft a resolution that will be agreeable to both Advani and the RSS.
Singh returns to India on Friday from Israel. But he is unlikely to arrive in India before 6 pm when the BJP Parliamentary Board is scheduled to meet.
So the final decision over Advani's fate is likely to be delayed till Saturday.
Complete Coverage: The BJP Crisis
Meanwhile, the party continues to grope with words. "We should have a resolution which will not retract nor dilute but merely give the correct interpretation of what Advani said in Pakistan on Mohammad Ali Jinnah," said the Advani confidante.
But the anti-Advani camp says these words should be such that they give out a clear message that "the BJP does not support Jinnah's two-nation theory and it should also convey that Jinnah was anything but secular."
On Thursday, party vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu met Advani and submitted a fresh draft of a parliamentary board resolution asking him to withdraw his resignation. This draft hails Advani's Pakistan visit as a diplomatic success.
Naidu was accompanied by party general secretaries Sanjay Joshi and Pramod Mahajan.
A senior BJP leader angered by Advani's remarks on Jinnah told rediff.com, "Let us make a few things clear. The BJP was never against Advani's visit to Pakistan. So if his visit is appreciated in the new resolution, it is fine. But the message that has gone down from Karachi must be countered in some unambiguous way in the new resolution otherwise the RSS will not be pleased."