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Govindacharya calls Vajpayee 'mask', lands BJP in crisis

Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary K N Govindacharya's ''derogatory remarks'' against former prime minister and senior party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee have plunged the party into a crisis.

At a meeting with three British diplomats, Govindacharya reportedly called Vajpayee the party's mukhota (mask). ''The real leader is party president L K Advani.''

Taking serious objection to the remarks, Vajpayee has reportedly written a letter to party president L K Advani, urging him to look into the issue.

Asked to confirm this, Vajpayee said, ''I will neither confirm nor deny it.''

Did the remarks hurt him? ''Of course, they have,'' said Vajpayee.

Pumping more fuel into the controversy was Govindacharya's reported departure from a Yuva Morcha meeting in New Delhi as soon as Vajpayee started addressing the gathering.

The party general secretary, however, denied making any remarks against Vajpayee, which were first reported by party newspaper Panchajanya's former editor Bhanu Pratap Shukla in a Hindi daily.

Stating that he had great respect for the senior leader, Govindacharya said the former prime minister was the party's mukat (coronet) and pagri (turban).

Asked to comment on reports that a taped version of his conversation with the first and the third secretaries of the British high commission were available, the general secretary said, ''I do not want this controversy over a trivial issue to drag on,'' he said. ''Such controversies crop up from time to time, and disappear when clarifications are given.''

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