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Advani quits as opposition leader, Sushma takes over

By The Rediff News Bureau
Last updated on: December 18, 2009 20:09 IST
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L K Advani, who pitchforked the Bharatiya Janata Party close to portals of power at the Centre in early 1990s, was on Friday elected to the newly created post of chairman of the party's Parliamentary Party in the first step towards a generational change in the organisational hierarchy.

Eighty-two-year-old Advani was chosen at a meeting of party Members of Parliament, which amended the Constitution of the BJP Parliamentary Party to create the post, paving the way for election of Sushma Swraj as the next leader of the BJP in Lok Sabha and to be its leader of the opposition.

Advani said his stepping down as the leader of the opposition did not mark the "end of an era" in politics but the beginning of a "new chapter" in his political life.

"It is not end of an era. In my life and politics, this is a new chapter," he said.

Advani said "there is no political party in India which has set up such a strong base in so few years".

"Even now, we are ruling eight states, out of which we have our own government in six states," he said addressing the BJP Parliamentary party meet after taking over as its new chairman.

Advani, who was given the power to appoint leaders of the party in both the Houses of Parliament named Swaraj (57) to the post he held till now.

She represents the younger face of the party in the top hierarchy in accordance with RSS plans of party reins being given to younger leaders.

While BJP president Rajnath Singh (58) is expected to step down as party president tomorrow to make way for 52-year-old Nitin Gadkari as the party head.

The elevation of Advani in the Parliament party marks an end of the era in the BJP, which was brought to the position of the main Opposition in 1989 by Advani with his strident Hindutva plank, capped by the Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya.

From two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984, to over 80 in 1989 and to 188 in 1999, Advani played a leading role along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee to bring the party to power twice in 1998 and 1999 to head a coalition government.

But his leadership came under attack after the second successive defeat of the party in the Lok Sabha elections this May.

BJP president Rajnath Singh, who moved the resolution to amend the BJP PP constitution, said Advani would continue to "guide" the party.

Advani himself made it clear that he was not calling it quits. Referring to a newspaper which this morning said the "rath yatri is stepping down", he said "if someone thinks that I will cease to be active and quitting politics or keeping away from Parliament he is wrong."

"I became a rath yatri when I was 14 for the cause of India's independence.  I became a political yatri in 1951 when Bhartiya Jan Sangh was formed and in the 70s I became a yatri in Parliament for the cause of good governance.

"I am not discontinuing this yatra. This will continue life long," he said.

Advani acknowledged RSS as the inspiration for his entry into politics saying had he not been a "pracharak" he would not have entered politics.

"This is a new chapter in my life," he said adding he also felt a sense of relief and satisfaction.

Referring to Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, whom he nominated the leader of the party in Rajya Sabha, Advani said what was de facto till now, will become de jure.

Image: BJP leader L K Advani

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