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No compromise on corruption: Rajnath Singh

Neena Vyas

Takes over reins of party; MPs indicted in cash-for-questions scam may be expelled from BJP also

Key responsibility for Bal Apte MPs may be expelled from party also Focus on cultural nationalism

WELCOME ABOARD: The former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, offering sweets to the newly elected president Rajnath Singh as the outgoing president, L.K. Advani, looks on at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in New Delhi on Monday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy

NEW DELHI: Rajnath Singh took over as Bharatiya Janata Party president here on Monday, signalling the end of the Advani era in the party. In about 10 days, he is expected to put in place a new team of office-bearers.

Key job for Bal Apte

Until a final decision is taken, senior vice-president Bal Apte, close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, will be given the key responsibility related to the party organisation, it is expected.

Mr. Singh said he would make "no compromise on the issues of corruption and indiscipline." It is expected that the six BJP MPs indicted by Parliament in the cash-for-questions scandal will be expelled from the party also.

This would be different from Mr. Advani's stand — he walked out of the Lok Sabha and dissociated himself and the party with the expulsion of the MPs on December 23.

Mr. Singh took charge amid scenes of great celebration. There were drumbeaters, `shehnai' players, firecrackers and the mandatory ladoos. A hoarding displaying a smiling picture of Mr. Singh was put up at the entrance of the party headquarters here.

"Crown of power"

Almost the entire BJP top brass, including the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, were present to see him take charge from Mr. Advani. Both senior leaders expressed the confidence that under Mr. Singh the party would reach greater heights. Mr. Vajpayee went a step further, saying the "bed of spikes and the crown of thorns" that came with the party president's post would become the "crown of power."

This was a clear signal that Mr. Singh would remain president till 2010. In short, the BJP could well fight the next Lok Sabha elections under his leadership.

Sending the "right" message to the RSS, Mr. Singh said he would remain focussed on "cultural nationalism" and "integral humanism," phrases often used by the BJP as a synonym for Hindutva. "These will serve as the basis for all our future programmes."

Four priorities

Mr. Singh spelt out four priorities: keeping the party's image clean, expanding its base, strengthening the National Democratic Alliance and "struggling" on the streets to expose the "anti-people policies of the United Progressive Alliance." He wanted the party "to always honour Mother India, the people, the farmers who give us our daily food and the ordinary party worker who helps to take the party forward."

He said the BJP had played a stellar role on the issues of integration of Kashmir with India, keeping India democratic (for which the party fought against the Emergency) and taking up the cause of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. These issues flowed from the party's "nationalist" credentials.

"UPA anti-farmer"

Lashing out at the UPA, he described the Centre as "anti-people" and "anti-farmer." Unless farmers were given a guaranteed income, credit at lower rates and a remunerative price for their produce, the tragedy of suicides among them would continue unabated. The party's programmes would aim at "mass struggles" to send a clear signal that the BJP was ready to take up everyday problems faced by the people.

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