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Updated: December 18, 2009 14:08 IST

Advani likely to quit as Leader of Opposition today

Neena Vyas
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Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani during the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting at Parliament Annexe on December 8, 2009.
Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani during the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting at Parliament Annexe on December 8, 2009.

L.K. Advani is expected to resign as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha on Friday. Sushma Swaraj is tipped to take his place.

On Saturday, at a scheduled meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Parliamentary Board, a decision is expected on endorsing Nitin Gadkari as the next party chief after the end of Rajnath Singh’s tenure.

However, the formal taking of charge by Mr. Gadkari, now Maharashtra BJP president, will take place some time in January as per the party organisation election timetable.

The changes will mark the overhaul of the party leadership after the 2009 Lok Sabha election debacle.

Authoritative sources confirmed that a meeting of the party’s parliamentary party — comprising members of both the Houses— has been scheduled for Friday.

According to the script, Mr. Advani will resign as the Leader of the Opposition; the parliamentary party will then amend its constitution to create the post of chairman of the parliamentary party, to which position Mr. Advani will be elected; and simultaneously, Ms. Swaraj, at present Deputy Leader of the Opposition, could be elected the Leader of the Opposition.

Party leaders have pointed out that Mr. Advani and his band of dedicated followers have decided to emulate the Congress — Sonia Gandhi is chairman of the parliamentary party while the two Houses have their own leaders.

Since the BJP’s parliamentary party constitution has no provision for such a post, it will be specially created for Mr. Advani. This position is not a constitutional office and the two Leaders of the Opposition — Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha and Ms. Swaraj or whoever replaces Mr. Advani in the Lok Sabha — will enjoy Cabinet position. Mr. Advani as chairman will not.

It seems that Mr. Advani’s followers had to convince the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to agree to amend the parliamentary party’s constitution as it normally resists changes that are tailored to suit an individual.

BJP’s party office-in-charge Shyam Jhajhu confirmed that a meeting of the Parliamentary Board was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. This is to be followed by a meeting of party office-bearers and then a formal announcement would be made about the party consensus on Mr. Gadkari as the next party chief, though he will take charge later. Mr. RajnathSingh is expected to announce his decision to make way for Mr. Gadkari.

The former Goa Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, is tipped to become a key general-secretary in Mr. Gadkari’s new team.

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