Top Advani aide quits BJP over `ideological differences`

BJP`s image on Sunday suffered a further knock when Sudheendra Kulkarni, a close aide of Vajpayee and Advani, severed his links with the party.

New Delhi: Already battered by internal wranglings and the aftermath of Jaswant Singh`s expulsion, BJP`s image on Sunday suffered a further knock when Sudheendra Kulkarni, a close aide of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, severed his links with the party on grounds of serious "ideological differences".

Though he sought to make it that he had decided to dissociate himself from the party and had communicated it to Advani sometime back and that it had nothing to do with the action against Jaswant Singh, he described the expulsion as "graceless and baseless."

Kulkarni, a former journalist and a one-time CPI(M) card holder, held there was "no essential difference" between what Jaswant Singh wrote on Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his book and what Advani had penned down in his book with regard to the Pakistan founder.

An erstwhile speech-writer of Advani, the 52-year-old Kulkarni said he was ending his "active association" with the party as he wanted to have the "freedom to express" his views.

"I have, after 13 years of being a full-time activist of BJP, decided to end my active association with the party. I continue, however, to be its well-wisher," he told reporters.

When asked what prompted his decision, Kulkarni said, "I have concluded that I cannot make any meaningful contribution to the party any more as I have ideological differences with it as it stands today.”

"I want to have the freedom to express my views and be sincere to my convictions. At the same time, I respect the discipline of the party and, therefore, I have stepped out."

BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that his dissociation from the BJP or its leaders is not going to have any effect on the party.

"Kulkarni is not a member of BJP or an office-bearer of
the party," Naqvi said.

After BJP`s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, Kulkarni had been critical of the party`s election campaign strategy and management as also Varun Gandhi`s hate speech. He had incurred the wrath of the RSS when he wrote about Sangh Parivar "interference" in BJP`s functioning.

In a newspaper article yesterday, Kulkarni had been highly critical of the way Jaswant Singh was expelled from BJP at its Shimla conclave.

On a specific question on his ideological differences, he said, "I cannot elaborate on my ideological differences with the party at this stage."

He said, "when you have differences, the right thing is to step out, which is what I have done."

On whether his step was triggered by the manner in which Singh was removed, he said, "I would like to clarify that my decision has nothing to do with his removal. I had taken this decision several weeks back and communicated it to Advaniji."

On Jaswant’s expulsion

Asked if the expulsion was legitimate, he said, "I have read the book. There is nothing in the book to suggest that Jaswant Singhji has glorified Jinnah or denigrated Vallabhbhai Patel. Or he has gone against the ideology of the BJP.

"I don`t see any essential difference between what Advaniji has written about Jinnah in his book and what Jaswant Singhji has written about Jinnah in his book. The only difference is that the entire book of Jaswant Singhji is a political biography of Jinnah but there is no essential difference between the basic arguments.

"Therefore, I consider it very unfortunate that such a graceless action should have been taken against Jaswant Singhji," he said.

Kulkarni said that his decision had nothing to do with the action against Singh. "So this cannot be said to be the last straw because my decision was taken quite sometime back".

Kulkarni, who had quit BJP in 2005, said Advani was "extremely sad" when he conveyed his decision. "I continue to have the highest respect for both Advaniji and Vajpayeeji," he said and thanked them for supporting him.

When asked about his future plans, Kulkarni said, "I will
continue to be active in public life and work closely with
like-minded people in all political parties to make my humble
contribution to the promotion of good governance and towards
building a national consensus on major national issues".

Reacting to his decision, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said Kulkarni was not a member of the BJP since 2005. "He was associated with election-related work. The whole election mechanism was wound up immediately after the Lok Sabha polls by party president Rajnath Singh," he said.

Another BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj described Kulkarni as a "valuable colleague" but said, "If Kulkarni feels that he is uncomfortable in BJP and he has taken a decision to leave
the party, well, that is his decision."

Kulkarni, an IIT graduate and a columnist, was national secretary of BJP when Advani was the party president. However, he resigned in 2005 in the wake the controversial statement made by Advani in Pakistan, where he described Mohammad Ali Jinnah as "secular". That speech of Advani was reportedly written by Kulkarni.

Bureau Report