Neena Vyas

Other presidents came and went, never to return, but Mr. Advani always did

Problems with RSS began after he flouted one-man one-post principleDisappointed over his inability to communicate the context of Jinnah remarks

MUMBAI: L.K. Advani held the top job of president for 11 years in the 25-year old Bharatiya Janata Party. Other presidents came and went, never to return as the head of the party, but Mr. Advani always did.

He was president of the Jan Sangh for nearly seven years from 1970 to 1977 with a break in-between. He first took over as BJP president in 1986 after two consecutive tenures were given to Atal Bihari Vajpayee; after six years in that position till 1986, he returned to the top job in 1993 and kept it till 1998, when he became part of the Vajpayee Government.

From 1989 to 1993, Mr. Advani was Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha when Murli Manohar Joshi took over the reins of the party. He once again took over as party head after the BJP lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and M. Venkaiah Naidu quit the post. Since then he had held both positions of party chief and Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Advani's problems began with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as he flouted the party's principle of one-man one-post. Despite the Sangh's advice that it was time for younger generation to take charge, he did not vacate the position of party chief.

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan publicly stated in an interview to a television channel that it was time for Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani to groom younger leadership.

Ram temple issue

There was also the old grouse that Mr. Advani, as the RSS favourite, failed to deliver on issues such as the Ram temple when the BJP was in power. The humiliation of senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders during the VHP's 'shila poojan' was, perhaps, what that finally led to a breakdown in communication between him and the Sangh. When Mr. Naidu resigned as party chief, Mr. Advani took over that position without consulting the RSS.

His troubles with the RSS boiled over after his 'Jinnah is secular' remarks made in Pakistan, forcing him to put in his papers in June this year, days after his return from that country. Party leaders persuaded him to take back the resignation, but the RSS bosses did not relent. An agreement was hammered out among Mr. Vajpayee, some senior BJP leaders and the Sangh leadership that Mr. Advani would leave the post by the year-end. That is exactly the scenario that unfolded.

While announcing his resignation here on Saturday, Mr. Advani responded to questions on the Jinnah episode, saying he was ''not disappointed'' with the turn of events. But ''I was disappointed with myself that I was not able to communicate the situation in which I said [what I did on Jinnah].'' He explained that he was merely quoting what Jinnah had said on August 11, 1947, at a Pakistan Constituent Assembly meeting. He was impressed with Jinnah's remarks that after the founding of Pakistan, all citizens should forget whether they were Hindus or Muslims, they could go to their temples, churches and mosques, but they would all be Pakistan's citizens.

Mr.Advani also explained his remarks on the RSS he made in Chennai in September. ''I gave my view that an impression had been created in the country that the BJP could not take any decision without the RSS endorsement. Since then an attempt has been made by both sides to reverse that impression.'' He said he had never asked for a dialogue between the BJP and the RSS on this issue.