Advani the big loser in BJP clash

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 12:00am

For weeks, Indians have picked up their morning newspapers to read yet more gory details of how the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been self-destructing.

Since May, when it suffered a surprise defeat by the Congress Party in the general election, the BJP has lurched from crisis to crisis. It took the defeat badly, plunging into an existential crisis from which it has only just emerged - but at a huge cost to its president, Lal Krishna Advani.

The latest BJP woes were triggered by Mr Advani paying homage at the tomb of the founder of the Islamic republic, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, during a visit to Pakistan last month.

The unprecedented praise of Jinnah - seen by many Indians as the architect of the bloody partition of India into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India - enraged the RSS, or Organisation of National Volunteers, the ideological base of the BJP.

The RSS demanded Mr Advani retract his Jinnah comments or quit, and all attempts at compromise failed, leaving Mr Advani humiliated and the RSS again firmly in command of the BJP.

The only uncertainty is when Mr Advani will relinquish one of his posts - party president or leader of the opposition in parliament - as demanded by the RSS.

The BJP had two options after the May poll - become a right-of-centre party or continue being the puppet of the RSS which dominates membership and ideology. The RSS is delighted at the choice.