Indian opposition leader reverses decision to quit key posts

Reuters News

6/11/2013 12:49:03 PM - Reuters News

By Sruthi Gottipati

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Veteran Indian politician Lal Krishna Advani on Tuesday backtracked on his decision to quit senior posts in the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, a move that may convince potential partners to stick with the BJP in upcoming elections.

The Hindu nationalist BJP has been crippled by infighting among its leaders, several of whom harbor ambitions to become India's next prime minister.

They include Advani, at 85 the BJP's patriarch who played a key role in turning it into a national opposition force, and Narendra Modi, whose promotion to run the BJP's election campaign appeared to have triggered Monday's shock resignation.

Advani stepped down from positions he held on the party's national executive group, parliamentary board and election committee before reversing the decision.

Senior leaders moved quickly to appease Advani and encourage him to think again, including Modi himself and Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the BJP's ideological parent, the religious organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

BJP President Rajnath Singh told reporters that Advani decided to accept Bhagwat's advice and return to his posts.

The resignation, though shortlived, underlined faultlines within the BJP and the difficulty it faced in seizing back power from the ruling centre-left Congress party, itself beset by corruption scandals and accusations of poor economic management.

The elections are due to be held by May 2014.

But Advani's decision to back down could keep potential coalition partners on board.

Two parties aligned with the BJP signaled that they may reconsider their position if Advani was out of the picture, while many within the BJP view Modi as too divisive a figure to be the face of the party's election campaign.

Despite his change of heart, Advani could emerge from the brief crisis in a weaker position, some analysts believed.

"I think it's quite a humiliating retreat," said Amulya Ganguli, a political analyst. "You can't start a rebellion and then retreat with your tail between your legs."

"He'll look very foolish unless he got something out of it."

After the announcement that Advani was back in the saddle, Modi voiced his support via Twitter.

"Today, I whole heartedly welcome his decision!" Modi wrote in a tweet.

Supporters see Modi as a no-nonsense administrator who has won praise at home and abroad for making the state of Gujarat, where he is chief minister, business-friendly.

Detractors say he did not do enough to stop religious riots in 2002 that killed 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat.

Advani is himself a controversial figure. He led a campaign for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque in Ayodhya in northern India.

The campaign culminated in the razing of the mosque in 1992, triggering nationwide riots in which more than 3,000 died.

(Reporting By Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Mike Collett-White)