Advani Steps Down
Saturday, 19 December 2009

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani stepped down on Friday months after he led the Hindu nationalists to heavy defeat in the general election, officals said.

Party stalwart Advani will move to a largely ceremonial role specially created for him and will be replaced by Sushma Swaraj, a former cabinet minister, as party leader in the Lok Sabha.

"This is not the end of my political career," the 82-year-old Advani said in Hindi in New Delhi. "My journey will go on."

Defeat in the May election sparked months of infighting and a leadership struggle in the BJP, as the party debated whether its mix of a Hindu-revivalist agenda and history of economic reforms still resonated two decades after it rose to prominence.

An inquiry released in November added to the BJP's woes. The report accused several top party leaders, including Advani, of having a role in the destruction of an ancient mosque in 1992 that trigged some of the country's worst religious riots.

"At present, what the BJP is facing are various types of crises," political commentator Swapan Dasgupta said on a TV panel discussion.

"There's obviously the leadership issue, which I think today for some time is going to be buried. But there's a larger political crisis which is, what sort of BJP is going to emerge?"

Advani served as interior minister and later as deputy prime minister when the BJP was in power until 2004, and was the party's prime ministerial candidate this year.

The 57-year-old Swaraj is seen as a compromise, a reformist who also sits well with traditional Hindu India.

She will take on a Congress-led government that is itself grappling with rising food prices, a failed monsoon and the impact of the global financial crisis, which have tempered expectations of accelerated economic reforms.


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