ATAL Behari Vajpayee may be a formidable orator when critiquing the government, but when he finds himself in a Sitaram Kesri-like predicament he cuts an equally pathetic figure. Just that last agonising bit short of the finishing line, willy-nilly he casts himself in the "old man in a hurry" mould—full of urgency, even a touch of desperation. Which is exactly what happened at the February 2 rally by the BJP and its allies at Delhi's Ambedkar stadium.
"Certain mischievous elements are trying to project the rift between me and (BJP president) Advaniji, that he will be the prime minister immediately after elections," he blurted out. Making the situation curiouser, Advani avoided addressing the rally, but released the party manifesto the following day officially projecting Vajpayee as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
However, the BJP's official announcement that Vajpayee would be at the helm if it forms a government at the Centre had not scotched speculation on why he felt compelled to issue the clarification at the rally. "The fact that Vajpayee felt the need to contradict the rumour only proves that there is something to it," says Congress spokesperson V.N. Gadgil. Sure enough, next day the papers promptly took the cue with reports on the 'feud'.
BJP general secretary K.N. Govindacharya brushes away the brouhaha: "This controversy (the alleged rift between Vajpayee and Advani) has been floated by adversaries for the last 30 years. They can't comprehend the unity and solidarity in the BJP." Though, a high point in the 'dichotomy' in the party was supplied by Govindacharya himself when he famously described Vajpayee as a 'mukhota' (mask)—that he denied it later did not lessen the damage.
But it is increasingly being argued that Vajpayee's public testimony and the attendant media attention—coupled...