Advani, other BJP leaders meet RSS chief

New Delhi, Aug 29 ( Senior leaders of the crisis-hit Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday held a series of meetings with Mohan Bhagwat, chief of its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), sparking speculation of a possible leadership change in the party.

Senior-most BJP leader L.K. Advani met Bhagwat at the RSS headquarters here.

Earlier in the day, former Uttarakhand chief minister B.C. Khanduri, who was forced to step down following the party’s poor showing in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, visited the RSS chief.

Bhagwat later called on party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi at the latter’s house.

The meetings came after senior party leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar called on Bhagwat late Friday. The four leaders later called on Advani, leading to speculation about a leadership change.

However, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the succession issue was not discussed in the meetings.

“There were extensive discussions on social and political issues during the BJP leaders’s meetings with the Sangh chief, but there was no discussion on the change in party the leadership,” Javadekar told reporters here.

On Friday, Bhagwat had addressed a rare press conference here and asked the BJP again to put an end to the infighting. The RSS chief also asserted that the BJP will “rise from the ashes”.

The BJP has been in turmoil after its poor show in the Lok Sabha elections. The crisis worsened last week when veteran leader Jaswant Singh was expelled from the party over his controversial book “Jinnah – India, Partition, Independence” in which he has praised Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Singh and senior party leaders Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha as well as former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra have cornered the party’s top leader, Advani, saying in media interviews that he was in the know of the militant-hostage swap during the 1999 hijack of an Indian Airlines aircraft.

Advani has all along maintained that he was unaware that three terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azhar, were to be freed in exchange for the 160 hostages on flight IC-814 that had been hijacked to Kandahar while on a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi.

Meanwhile, the BJP seemed to be putting up a united front, with all its leaders refusing to comment to mediapersons on any issue outside the party’s forum and refraining from a war of words.

“We will not tolerate any allegations against Advani,” Javadekar said at his press conference.