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Advani likely to step down before winter session

Neena Vyas

Sushma Swaraj “almost certain” to become Opposition leader

NEW DELHI: There is every indication that L.K. Advani will step down as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha before the start of the winter session of Parliament in mid-November.

An announcement to this effect could even come earlier, several BJP leaders separately told The Hindu. Some said Mr. Advani’s exit could come before the Maharashtra Assembly elections. While it seems that the party’s and RSS leaders have yet to zero in on a replacement for party president Rajnath Singh, whose tenure ends in December, for the position held by Mr. Advani, it was “almost certain” that his deputy, Sushma Swaraj, would occupy it.

The confabulations between top BJP and RSS leaders that started a few days ago continued on Sunday with RSS leaders, including chief Mohan Bhagwat and senior leader Madan Das Devi, invited for a breakfast meeting at Mr. Advani’s residence.

Some in the BJP said it was a “balancing act.” On Saturday Mr. Bhagwat had lunch with Murli Manohar Joshi, who has not got along with Mr. Advani for well over a decade.

After that breakfast meeting, Mr. Devi said: “The RSS is assured the BJP leadership, as a party team, will stand united and face the present situation; overcome all the problems and emerge stronger.”

The emphasis was on the “party team.” A senior leader said the visit to the residences of Dr. Joshi and Mr. Advani has sent out a clear message that Dr. Joshi would have to be consulted on all major decisions. It seems that besides the RSS, the three among whom consultations would take place and a consensus arrived at on a name for new party president are Mr. Rajnath Singh, Mr. Advani and Dr. Joshi.

It was made clear by several leaders in the party that the RSS was looking “beyond the four names” that were being played up in the media — Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar and Narendra Modi.

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