Today's Paper

New post for Vajpayee; Advani to be Leader of the Opposition

NEW DELHI, JUNE 1. The former Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, was today unanimously elected leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party's parliamentary party and by virtue of this position he will be the Leader of the Opposition in the 14th Lok Sabha.

The party also created a new position, that of chairman of the BJP parliamentary party, by amending the party constitution and unanimously electing the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to the position.

A number of decisions were taken at a two-hour long meeting of the BJP parliamentary party this morning at the Parliament House Annexe. There were indications that as the main Opposition party tried to get together an effective strategy, it would exploit the fault lines that were shown up during the government making exercise of the United Progressive Alliance.

In fact, Mr. Vajpayee later told reporters: "I don't want to sit in the Opposition for five years." Earlier he had told the parliamentary party that the BJP "will come back to power," but the question was how it should go about the task. He suggested that the atmosphere during the elections was conducive to the then ruling alliance and the party workers were enthusiastic. However, the party was unable to convert this into votes.

Now, the party should analyse why some sections of people deserted the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance. The new MPs must straightaway establish contacts with the people at the grassroots instead of waiting for elections.

Mr. Advani is reported to have told the party MPs that the BJP was "ready to sit in the Opposition for five years, but the ruling parties may not allow that... " While the BJP's mandate was to sit in the Opposition, which it had decided to do, the mandate was not in favour of the Congress.

The electoral debacle was the "most unexpected down" suffered by the BJP and it must find out why it could not anticipate the outcome. A stable NDA was a very big achievement and that this coalition must be further strengthened.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Vajpayee said his opinion was that the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, ought not to have taken the Prime Minister's post, which she did not.

On the peace process with Pakistan his view was that both sides must realise that for serious diplomacy consultations were needed, not statements.