RSS chief, Laxman call on Vajpayee

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 2. The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today had two interesting, ``in-house'' visitors, Mr. K. S. Sudarshan, supreme leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Mr. Bangaru Laxman, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mr. Sudarshan had been out of the country, and he had presumably come to share his perceptions and observations with the Prime Minister. The RSS chief was not in Nagpur when Mr. Vajpayee went there to attend the BJP national council session, and also paid a visit to the RSS headquarters. According to a prime ministerial aide, the RSS chief was not there to make any demands or complaints, but merely to tell the Prime Minister about his impressions of India's image abroad.

Mr. Laxman, newly-installed BJP president, reportedly, came with a list of possible office-bearers who could be part of the ``team''. Since Mr. Laxman is widely perceived to be Mr. Vajpayee's hand-picked nominee for the post of the party president, it is only natural that he should have detailed consultation with the Prime Minister before announcing a slate of general-secretaries, vice-presidents, etc.

It is also now being clarified that there would be no Cabinet expansion/reshuffle till the prime minister returns from the U.S. A number of BJP hopefuls had been telling, somewhat self- servingly, newspersons about an imminent Cabinet expansion; according to these sources, the party spokesperson, Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, has already been offered the Information and Broadcasting portfolio, with a Cabinet rank. All these expectations and hopes are now ``on hold'', with nobody being very certain as to how soon the Prime Minister would be inclined to reshuffle his ministerial team.

The Prime Minister, as of now, is reportedly not convinced of the idea that in case Mr. Naidu wants to give up the post of party spokesperson he should necessarily be compensated with a Cabinet rank ministerial berth. Admittedly, the Prime Minister will have to fill, sooner or later, the vacancies caused by the departure of Mr. Ram Jethmalani, Mr. P. R. Kumaramangalam, Ms. Uma Bharti and Mr. Bangaru Laxman.

`BJP identity separate'

PTI reports:

The Prime Minister, in an interview to India Today, made it clear that the BJP's identity was separate from that of the RSS and that his Government should not be judged ``through the prism of any other organisation''. ``The RSS and its front units have an identity of their own which is entirely separate from that of the BJP,'' he said.

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