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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Advani to lead Indian opposition
Former deputy prime minister LK Advani
Mr Advani: A leading Hindu nationalist hawk
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has elected the country's former deputy premier as its new leader in parliament.

Lal Krishna Advani, 75, a prominent hardliner, will lead the party in the lower house. Former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee becomes BJP chairman.

Last month, the BJP suffered a shock election defeat by the Congress party.

Media reports suggest Mr Vajpayee, 79 and seen by many as a moderate, rejected the job of opposition leader.

Analysts say the newly-created position is largely symbolic, and Mr Vajpayee is likely to act as an elder statesman guiding the party.

"I have carried the burden for so long. Now I have given it to Mr Advani," Mr Vajpayee told reporters after a meeting of party MPs.

Former finance minister Jaswant Singh was chosen as opposition leader in the upper house.

Natural successor

Last Friday, Mr Advani admitted the BJP's election campaign around the much hyped "India Shining" slogan may have backfired.

Mr Advani has often been seen as Mr Vajpayee's natural successor if the BJP is returned to power.

Known for his formidable organising skills, Mr Advani is credited with scripting the BJP's swift rise as a major political force from its two parliamentary seats in 1984.

In 1990, he travelled across the country whipping up support for a campaign to build a Hindu temple on the site of the 16th century Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.

Mr Advani was subsequently cleared of inciting a mob which destroyed the mosque, sparking nationwide bloodshed.

LK Advani was born in Karachi in what is now Pakistan. His family migrated to India just before partition in 1947.

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