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Bhandari says it's time for new leader

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: May 14, 2005 17:07 IST
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Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Gujarat governor Sundar Singh Bhandari has denied that he had deliberately timed the comments that he made in an interview to Outlook magazine with a view to embarass the party top brass and particularly its president, Lal Kishenchand Advani.

Speaking to on Saturday, Bhandari said that he continues to be a member of the BJP, and had the good of the party at heart while making the comments.

"When the journalist concerned called me up and said he wanted to interview me, I said alright he could come. And when he asked me probing questions, I had to give answers, particularly relating to the action taken by the Gujarat government to control the post Godhra riots," he said.

"I am not blaming Chief Minister Narendra Modi in person. If there were delays in taking administrative actions, then corrective measures should be taken. We should learn our lessons because if such a situation arises elsewhere in the future, we should be able to take prompt action," Bhandari added.

Asked if the loss of lives could have been minimised, Bhandari said the whole purpose of taking prompt action is to do that.

"I was shocked when I learnt about the enormity of the riots. I was convinced that it would not spread to rural Gujarat, but I was proved wrong when the riots spread to the rural areas on the second day. When I started gathering information on the actions taken, I found there was a delay in response time at many places," he said.

On asked whether Modi should continue as chief minister, Bhandari said, "The earlier the BJP takes a decision, the better it would be for the party. Some people in the party say that Modi should go, while some say that he should continue. The party should debate on the matter once and for all and take a collective decision. Once it is sorted out, the matter should not be raised again. This harms the interests of the party."

He refused to call the Gujarat riots a 'black spot' as termed by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

"I would not go that far," he said.

Coming back to the issue of BJP leadership, Bhandari said the time has come when second-rung leaders should be allowed to take over the reigns of the party and the race of Advani to Advani comes to an end.

"It looks like we have no alternative leader in the party. I am not going to name someone who can take over. We have a wide range of young leaders capable of steering the party," Bhandari said.

When new leaders keep coming, the old ones would naturally get replaced. If we have to have a bright future, this is necessary. I have no doubt that new, young leaders would take the party back to those heights, which it attained under the present leadership, and come back to power, he added.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi