BJP veterans meet amid disquiet on Azad suspension

New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) BJP veterans, including former president L.K. Advani, met here on Thursday amid signs that a section of the party is not happy over the suspension of MP Kirti Azad for taking on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over alleged corruption in Delhi’s cricket body.

Advani drove to the residence of another former president Murli Manohar Joshi and was closeted there with BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar, party insiders said.

Shanta Kumar, a former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, met the media but refused to reveal what was discussed. “Yes, we met, we discussed things, we had tea. I can’t say more.”

But party sources with access to them said they felt that Azad’s suspension on Wednesday had sent out a wrong message since the cricketer-turned-politician had for years been campaigning against financial wrongdoing in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

“Some of them feel that action has been taken against a person who acted like a whistle-blower,” an informed source told IANS.

The veterans reportedly feel that the move against Azad, a three-time Lok Sabha member from Darbhanga in Bihar, would harm the party.

For eight years, Azad has been campaigning against alleged financial irregularities in the DDCA, which was headed by Jaitley for 13 long years until 2013. Jaitley says he has done no wrong.

The minister has sued Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders for suggesting that he was corrupt.

In a related development, more than 100 supporters of Azad, who was in the Indian cricket team that won the 1983 World Cup, staged a noisy protest outside the BJP headquarters here against his suspension.

Azad, suspended for “anti-party activities”, sought help from the party’s “Marg Darshak Mandal” which comprises of Advani, Joshi, the now ailing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

This was not an official meeting of the “Marg Darshak Mandal” but one of the veterans who also took a stand widely seen as critical of Modi’s and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s leadership after the party’s huge defeat in assembly polls in Bihar.

There was no official comment from the BJP on what Advani and others discussed. A BJP leader, Srikant Sharma, told the media that the party “respected the senior leaders”.

Advani, Joshi, Shanta Kumar and former finance minister Sinha are known to be unhappy with the working style of Shah, a confidant of Prime Minister Modi.

After the BJP’s Bihar setback, these party veterans took on Modi and Shah, demanding “a thorough review” of the debacle. They said the defeat showed the party had learnt nothing from its crushing defeat by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi in February.

The AAP and the Congress have both come out in support of Azad, son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad. Azad said on Wednesday that his suspension was “unfortunate” and that his fight was against corruption and not any individual.

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