Rajnath Singh to take charge on Monday, says new responsibility is a test
MUMBAI: Lal Krishna Advani resigned as Bharatiya Janata Party president on Saturday and formally declared that his successor would be Rajnath Singh. The new chief would take charge at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on January 2.
With this the controversy that started in June this year in the Sangh Parivar, after Mr. Advani made the controversial remark that Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was secular, has ended.
"Not under pressure"
Mr. Advani denied that he was forced to resign under the pressure of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He said he had acted on his declaration at the Chennai national executive session in September.
Mr. Advani announced his resignation at a press conference here, a day after the party's silver jubilee National Council session concluded. The resignation letter had been given to vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, he said. Several senior leaders including Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh, Pramod Mahajan, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Gopinath Munde, Prakash Javadekar and Atul Shah were present.
Mr. Advani said he would continue to be the Leader of the Opposition and remain active in politics. It was not going to be 'sanyas' (exile) for him. "My responsibility as a party worker will be with me all my life."
Replying to a question, he added, "even when I was not party president or the Leader of the Opposition, I think, the party attached some importance to me."
Earlier, the national executive committee adopted a resolution, moved by Mr. Jaswant Singh, placing on record its deep appreciation of Mr. Advani's ''extraordinary contribution'' to the party and ''the proud record of 60 years in public'' as an "ideal 'karyakarta' [worker]," not just as a leader and a former party president and Deputy Prime Minister.
In a brief statement, Mr. Rajnath Singh paid handsome tributes to his predecessor, saying Mr. Advani had made the largest contribution for the rapid increase in the BJP's strength "from two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to nearly 200" (its tally was 180 plus in the 13th Lok Sabha). He said he was accepting the responsibility "not as an honour but as a test."
Mr. Rajnath Singh recalled Atal Bihari Vajpayee's remark at the first National Council session of the party in 1980 that the 'mantra' of the party should be sangharsh, sanghatan aur sanrachna (struggle, organisation and construction).
It was a hundred years ago that the call for 'swaraj' was given to the people of India, Mr. Singh said and today the need was to convert swaraj into suraj, suchita aur suraksha (good governance, probity in public life and security for all people).
As he prepared to take over the new responsibility Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani would be the ''motivating force'' while his party colleagues would be the ''driving force'' of the party.
Mr. Rajnath Singh underlined the need for the party remaining on its chosen ideological path. "The same political thinking that inspired us to start our political journey will guide us forward." Answering questions, Mr. Advani said that under the BJP constitution, Mr. Rajnath Singh's tenure would be till February 2007. He would complete the presidential term begun in 2003 under Mr. Naidu. But the party could give him another three-year tenure. The election process for that would begin next year with a membership drive.