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Advani replaces Venkaiah Naidu as BJP chief

By Sheela Bhatt & Onkar Singh in New Delhi/PTI
Last updated on: October 18, 2004 21:16 IST
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Former deputy prime minister Lal Kishenchand Advani took over as the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party after M Venkaiah Naidu tendered his resignation citing personal reasons.

Advani's appointment would be ratified by the party's national council in Delhi on October 29. This will be his third stint as party chief. He had earlier held the post in 1986-90 and 1992-98.

Later, senior leader Jaswant Singh made this announcement at a press conference in Delhi where Naidu addressed mediapersons for the last time as BJP chief. Among other things, Naidu told them that he needed to devote more time to his ailing wife. He has been feeling guilty about neglecting her and would like to be relieved of his responsibilities with immediate effect.

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"My resignation is the result of inner discussion and consultation with my conscience," Naidu said adding he was quitting taking responsibility for the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections.

He announced that he would not contest any elections 'for the rest of my life' nor would any member of his family do so.

Explaining the 'personal reasons' behind his decision, Naidu said he has to devote time to his ailing wife. The party president's job was a 'full time' one and any deviation would not be doing justice to it, he said.

Naidu dismissed suggestions that his decision to quit was aimed at propping up his children in the political arena. "I don't believe in dynastic rule," he said adding if his children were interested, they would have to work for it.

Claiming that he never considered himself to be a leader, Naidu said, "I am a political activist."

On the debacle in Maharashtra, Naidu said he did not want to justify the disappointing results. "I did my best to galvanise the party, but could not get the desired results."

Before quitting, Naidu had asked all the concerned state units to give detailed reports on the party's performance in the recent elections and expressed satisfaction that the BJP had been able to make inroads in Arunachal Pradesh where it had opened its account bagging nine assembly seats 'on its own' despite the fact that almost the entire party shifted its loyalty to the Congress.

Referring to the Lok Sabha results, he said there appeared to be a 'mismatch between development, performance and the verdict' while lauding the National Democratic Alliance government for its good work.

Jaswant Singh then read out a note prepared on behalf of the party. "Office bearers and senior colleagues declined to accept the resignation of Naidu and tried to persuade him to continue leading the party as its president. He stood firm on his decision to step down.

"Thereafter, the meeting unanimously resolved to appoint L K Advani as the new president of the BJP. His appointment will be duly ratified at the meeting of the party's national council," the press note said.

Vajpayee and Advani were present at the press conference but did not comment on the issue despite repeated requests from mediapersons who had been thronging the BJP party office since Monday afternoon.

Party spokesman Arun Jaitley said Advani would also function as the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. "There is no bar on holding two posts," he said.

Another meeting of party office bearers is likely to be held in Delhi on Tuesday when Advani would spell out his agenda.

PTI reports that, earlier in the day, Naidu met former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani separately before attending a meeting of top party leaders in Delhi at which he offered his resignation and insisted on it being accepted spurning efforts to dissuade him.

Besides Vajpayee and Advani, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Sushma Swaraj and Pramod Mahajan were the others present at the meeting.

A meeting of the BJP national council would be held on October 29 to formally endorse the decision about Advani taking over as BJP president. Naidu said Vajpayee's 'guidance' and Advani's leadership would help take the BJP forward.

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Sheela Bhatt & Onkar Singh in New Delhi/PTI