Indian opposition battling sex scandal

India's beleaguered main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been dealt another blow, this time a scandal involving the alleged sexual high-jinks of an avowedly celibate official.

    BJP leaders Advani (L) and Vajpayee are meeting in Mumbai

    The Hindu nationalist party is holding a five-day meeting to celebrate its 25th anniversary, but the media has instead trumpeted the resignation of Sanjay Joshi, a party secretary.


    Joshi stepped down on Tuesday after an allegedly sexually explicit CD with an unidentified woman made the rounds among BJP members and the media.


    "Keeping in view Joshi's request, he was being relieved of his responsibility till the completion of (a) probe," Lal Krishna Advani, the BJP president, told party leaders at their meeting in Mumbai, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.


    Joshi, who is also a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's hardline Hindu backers, had apparently taken a vow of celibacy as some full-time RSS workers do.


    New president


    "Keeping in view Joshi's request, he was being relieved of his responsibility till the completion of (a) probe"

    Lal Krishna Advani,
    BJP president

    The sex scandal may also overshadow the official announcement of a new party president to replace Advani, expected to take place after the close of the party meeting on 30 December.


    Rajnath Singh, a low-key party member, has reportedly been chosen to succeed the hawkish Advani. But it is not clear whether he will able to end the turmoil which has hit the BJP since its election defeat by the Congress party in May last year.


    Since then, the party has become polarised between moderates wanting the party to move to the centre, and hardliners who feel a return to the core values of hardline Hindutva (Hinduness) will win more votes.


    The divisions came to the fore in June, in the firestorm that surrounded Advani after he praised archrival Pakistan's founder as a "great man" during a trip there.


    Analysts had said at the time that Advani's praise for Muhammad Ali Jinnah was an attempt to steer the BJP towards the mainstream and reach out to secular allies.


    But the attempt backfired spectacularly and the 77-year-old Advani, who spearheaded the ascent of Hindu right-wing politics in India, only succeeded in alienating the BJP's staunchly Hindu allies.



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