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Vajpayee did not do a good job: Sudarshan

By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, APRIL 11. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, K.S. Sudarshan, triggered a fresh controversy in the Bharatiya Janata Party today by suggesting that the Vajpayee Government had not performed that well and that Mr. Vajpayee had been unable to stop his "family" from interfering in government business.

This forced the BJP to come out with a statement late in the evening defending the Vajpayee-Advani leadership.

After a meeting at the residence of the BJP president, L.K. Advani, the general secretary, Arun Jaitley, said that the party noted Mr. Sudarshan's comments and it affirmed "full confidence" in the leadership of the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Mr. Advani. He asserted that "the National Democratic Alliance Government under Mr. Vajpayee was one of the best performing governments because of his leadership." Mr. Vajpayee ran a coalition government for six years and brought stability to the country's polity, itself a major achievement, Mr. Jaitley said, reading out a statement drafted at the meeting. It was attended by all the general secretaries and senior leaders, Jaswant Singh and Sushma Swaraj.

Brajesh Mishra criticised

But even as the BJP rushed to defend its leadership, the damage had already been done.

The RSS Sarsanghchalak stated on camera (NDTV) that he suspected the "loyalty" of Brajesh Mishra, former Principal Secretary, to Mr. Vajpayee when he was Prime Minister. He charged Mr. Mishra with being in "both the camps [Congress and BJP]". He bluntly said that neither Mr. Vajpayee nor Mr. Advani had done enough to help build a Ram temple in Ayodhya when they were in power. Mr. Sudarshan made these comments in extracts of an interview televised on NDTV today.

A fresh twist was also given to the race for the top slot in the party among the second generation BJP leaders as Mr. Sudarshan picked out Sushma Swaraj for praising her with a "she has performed well" comment while decrying the "family background" of the other woman leader, Uma Bharti.

This new controversy hit the BJP today even as it tried to deal with yesterday's controversy generated by Mr. Sudarshan's remarks on the ageing BJP leadership and the need for Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani to "step aside" for new faces to emerge.

Although a second and more weighty clarification came from the RSS today on the BJP's ageing leadership issue with the RSS Sarkaryawah (general secretary), Mohan Bhagwat, praising the Vajpayee-Advani leadership and stating that the organisation was of the "firm view" that Mr. Advani "should continue as party president," this was overshadowed by today's televised comments made by Mr. Sudarshan.

"Family members allowed to interfere"

In the interview Mr. Sudarshan said he "did not think he [Vajpayee] did such a good job [as Prime Minister]. When he made a decision he never took people along with him."

He added that he had told Mr. Vajpayee that his family members should not interfere in the day-to-day running of government and the party and to that Mr. Vajpayee had told him "that would be difficult."

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