Vajpayee has not retired from politics: Lalu

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New Delhi, Jan 12: Taking exception to BJP leader L K Advani's attempt to ''mollify'' his senior party colleague Atal Bihari Vajpayee by recommending his name for 'Bharat Ratna', Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today said Mr Advani had apparently made the move to buttress his prime ministerial ambitions.

''Mr Advani is nursing prime ministerial ambitions, and he has made the proposal to pave the way to project himself as the sole BJP candidate'' for seven RCR, the official residence of Prime Minister, Mr Prasad told reporters on the sidelines of a railway function. Mr Prasad, however, quipped that Mr Advani was only nurturing delusion as ''Mr Vajpayee has not retired from politics and he is very much in the race for the prime ministerial post.''

He said Mr Advani had apparently made a deft political move by trying to ensure that the UPA government clears his proposal which, in turn, would make the latter undisputed choice of the BJP for the prime ministerial office.

Mr Advani had, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, proposed that Mr Vajpayee be conferred upon the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, in view of his long-running parliamentary record and services to the country.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Singh told reporters here yesterday that it was too early to take a decision on it.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi had earlier said the government would follow the due procedure in the selection of personlities for the civilian awards.

''After hastily managing to get himself declared as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Mr Advani is now seeking to placate Mr Vajpayee by seeking the country's highest civilian award for him,'' he added.

Mr Vajpayee is an elder leader and ''we respect him.'' However, there was a set procedure for choosing the candidates for various honour, including Bharat Ratna, and this would be followed while giving such awards, Mr Dasmunsi said.

The Congress Party said Mr Vajpayee is a respected leader but the award can also be conferred upon veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu and Hindi cine star Dilip Kumar.

The BJP has reacted strongly, saying the Congress is trying to politicise the issue and create an ''unnecessary controversy'' over it.

UNI

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