Jaitley skips election meeting again, BJP rift in the open (Lead)

March 17th, 2009 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Arun Jaitley skipped another crucial meeting of the party’s central election committee Tuesday, bringing the rift between him and party president Rajnath Singh out in the open though the party tried to downplay the crisis.
The meeting was held to finalise Lok Sabha candidates for the states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and was attended by senior leaders L.K. Advani, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Gopinath Munde and Bal Apte. It was chaired by the party president.

Key strategist Jaitley has reportedly been unhappy since Rajnath Singh appointed Sudhanshu Mittal as the co-coordinator for the Lok Sabha election campaign in north-eastern states.

According to party insiders, Jaitley, who is in charge of the party’s election campaign, had made his displeasure known to some frontline leaders and wants Mittal removed from the post.

He has reportedly gone to the extent of telling some confidants that he will not attend any election committee meetings of the party till Mittal is removed.

However on Monday, Rajnath Singh snubbed Jaitley by meeting Mittal to discuss the party’s election strategy.

“Jaitley has raised some issues that the party is trying to resolve. But we don’t discuss intra-party issues in public,” said Naidu.

The party’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani tried to play down the crisis by saying “there are no differences”.

Mittal, a close associate of late party leader Pramod Mahajan, is said to have played a key role in finalising the seat-sharing agreement with the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam.

Party sources said Advani was making an effort to resolve the differences between Rajnath Singh and Jaitley with the help of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Jaitley had earlier skipped a meeting of the party’s central election committee in Delhi on March 13.

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