Vol. 5 Num 568 Sat. December 31, 2005  

Vajpayee calls it quits

India's former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a dramatic announcement on Thursday night that he would not enter electoral fray again and stay away from power politics, sending his Bharatiya Janata Party into a tizzy.

Addressing a rally in Mumbai to mark the party's silver jubilee celebrations, he said "I will not fight elections. I will not indulge in power politics any more."

Vajpayee's announcement during his brief speech was greeted with stunned silence and disbelief by his party leaders and workers. Vajpayee, who is a member of Lok Sabha from Lucknow constituency, had been a member of parliament since long.

It may be recalled that he had made a similar announcement in Rajya Sabha before the 1999 general elections.

Drawing from the epic the Ramayana, Vajpayee described BJP chief veteran L K Advani and young party general secretary Pramod Mahajan as Rama and Laxman, leaving out second generation of leaders from his scheme of things.

Recalling a story from the epic, Vajpayee, flanked by Advani and Mahajan on the dais, made his point "I feel like Parasuram at the coronation of Lord Rama as the King of Ayodhya after he returned from 14-year exile. Parasuram was angry that the bow of Lord Shiva was broken. But I will not be angry. I have nothing more to say when our Ram and Laxman are ready."

The announcement by the former prime minister, who completed his 81 years on Christmas day, left BJP rank and file scratching their heads about its impact.

Advani later told reporters that Vajpayee had taken the decision not to contest elections on Thursday morning himself.

Other BJP leaders merely said they have to first analyse the context and background in which Vajpayee made the announcement before making any comment.

Former Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (L) listens as Indian opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani speaks during the concluding session of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national convention in Mumbai yesterday.. PHOTO: AFP