L.K. Advani, the patriarch, the Bhisma Pitamah of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a dejected person now. Only after the RSS head intervened, did he agree to reconcile and contest from Gandhinagar, relinquishing his wish to contest from Bhopal.
Last time in June 2013, when the party’s Goa Conclave anointed Narendra Modi as its Campaign Committee Chief for the 2014 Elections, Advani not only kept himself absent from the important party meets but also tendered his resignation from party posts.
In this resignation letter to Party President Rajnath Singh, Advani had poured down his emotions:
“All my life I have found working for the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party a matter of great pride and endless satisfaction for myself.
For some time I have been finding it difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party or the direction in which it is going. I no longer have the feeling that this is the same idealistic party created by Dr. Mookerji, Pandit Deendayalji, Nanaji and Vaypayeeji, whose sole concern was the country, and its people. Most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas.
I have decided, therefore, to resign from the three main fora of the party, namely the National Executive, the Parliamentary Board and the Election Committee. This may be regarded as my resignation letter”.
Despite repeated requests from BJP leadership, and a host of leaders including Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Kalraj Mishra Ravi Shankar Prasad and Gopinath Munde flocking the veteran leader’s residence to persuade him, Advani remained adamant, posing major embarrassment for the party and denting its public image.
But the party also remained firm on its stand. BJP President Rajnath Singh made it clear that there would be no going back on party’s decision on Narendra Modi.
At last, like previous occasions, RSS had to intervene. RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat spoke to Advani and in plain words directed him to respect BJP’s party decision and adviced him to continue, guiding the party in nation’s interest. Incidentally, Advani was still the Chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party and Working Chairman of the NDA. Once RSS stepped in, Advani had to withdraw his resignation.
Fuming All The Way!
As a matter of fact, June 2013, was for the fourth time that BJP leader L K Advani had resigned from top party posts.
In January 1996, Advani had resigned from the 10th Lok Sabha following the CBI charge sheet against him in the hawala case, along with other politicians. He had decided not to contest elections until he was cleared of the charges. The lower courts found no ground for trying Advani. He was later discharged by the Supreme Court of India, because there was no additional evidence which could be used to charge him.
L.K. Advani then resigned as Party President on 7 June, 2005 following the widespread criticism from the RSS and his party insiders over his remarks, praising M.A.Jinnah, during his six-day visit to Pakistan. Paying a visit to before Jinnah’s mausoleum, Advani defined the founder of Pakistan as “secular” and an “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”. He wrote in the register kept there: “His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, is really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which, while every citizen would be free to practise his own religion, the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith. My respectful homage this great man.” All through that trip, he had been asked by Pak journalist to comment on a case dating back to 1948, in which he, as a young RSS Pracharak was named as a conspirator in a plot to assassinate Jinnah!
Advani just laughed it off, though Pakistani sources said that the FIR, naming Advani, has officially never been quashed. At the home front, however, praising Jinnah took toll on Advani’s position in his own party! After four days, Advani withdrew his resignation from the Party top post, owing hectic negotiations, thus ending a major leadership crisis in the BJP. Though the crisis ended, his relation remained strained thereafter, with the parent body RSS.
After seven months of withdrawal of his resignation, Advani had to step down as the Party President on December 31, 2005. Advani’s resignation was sought on BJP’s ‘One Man, One Post’. He was the Party President and the BJP’s leader in the Parliament. He was succeeded by the present Party President Rajnath Singh. But all these started from an exclusive interview to journalist Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s ‘Walk the Talk programme’, by the then RSS Chief K Sudarshan who had said that Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani should step aside and let a younger leadership take charge of the BJP.
In Nagpur, during the interview, in April 2004, Sudarshan said that the former Prime Minister Vajpayee should remain only a ”senior advisor”. The RSS Sarsanghchalak said: ”Absolutely, age is a factor after all.” Vajpayee retired from active politics after the 2004 defeat, but Advani remained at the forefront of the BJP, as the Opposition leader in the Parliament.
RSS had other plans for Lal Krishna Advani , as Sudarshan had said during the interview: “We think both of them should step aside. And after stepping aside, they should watch the new leadership come up. They should keep an eye and see that the new leadership is coming up properly”.
It was also a fact that at both its Hardwar conclave in November 2004 and at Mangalore in April 2005, RSS leaders severely criticised the BJP for straying from both ”ideology and idealism”.
L.K. Advani, who attended both the sessions, tried hard to convince peeved RSS leadership by repeatedly emphasising that BJP’s commitment to Hindutva and highlighting its umbilical links with the RSS.
Ten years have passed, since then. At the ripe old age of 87, is Advani still aspiring to get rid of the tag that always remained with him, “serving as number two”- overlooking the changing times, changing mood and the changing equations!
The Wrong Signal?
Advani’s grudge and consequent wish for contesting from Bhopal, not from Gandhinagar, a seat, he has retained since 1991 (except a brief gap from 1996-1998), are solely based on the assumption that as a senior leader he has the right to choose his constituency.
In the way he sent a wrong message to the Party leadership…putting Shivraj Singh Chouhan as a rival power centre against Modi! He had already on several occasions praised Shivraj Chouhan for developing an underdeveloped state like Madhya Pradesh, pointing to a remarkable feat over Modi, who he said had bettered a state that was already quite developed!
And it’s also a fact that despite representing Gandhinagar for more than 30 years now, Advani is neither a resident of the place nor has he done nothing remarkable for the development of the Gujarat capital, in all these years!
Still, the local cadres and the local leadership of BJP had never shown any lack of interest and enthusiasm in backing Advani’s candidature. On the other hand the past representatives of the constituency, Congress’s Somchandbhai Solanki,G.I.Patel or the then BJP representative Shankersinh Vaghela was perfectly fit within the Gujarati psyche or Gujarati Asmita.
Only after the RSS prod, Advani relented and started saying as usual, that ever since he left Karachi and came to India as a refugee, he has close relation with Gandhinagar!
Advani And Gandhinagar
L.K. Advani who began his political career as a 20-year-old RSS Pracharak in distant Karachi, entered electoral politics through Delhi Metropolitan Council. He went into the Rajya Sabha, running the backrooms since 1970.
Unlike Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had contested Lok Sabha elections across four different states, Advani has contested only from two States -New Delhi and Gujarat. He took the route of Rajya Sabha, for four consequent terms. He won a Lok Sabha seat only in 1989 and that too not by an impressive margin, during the anti-Congress Bofors wave in New Delhi.
In 1989, BJP fielded Advani first time for the Lok Sabha from of New Delhi. He won against Mohini Giri of Congress ,only by 31,000 votes. So next time, in 1991 , BJP didn’t take the risk, fielded Advani both from New Delhi and Gandhinagar. In Delhi he could manage only a margin of mere 1,589 votes while defeating a non-political personality like filmstar Rajesh Khanna, but won Gandhingar by 1,25,679 votes.
Gandhinagar remained with him, thereafter.
In 1998, Advani defeated Gujarat’s former DGP and Congress candidate PK Datta by a margin of 2,76,701 votes. In 1999 again, Advani defeated his Congress contestant , the former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan, by 1,88,944 votes. This was the fact that in 2004, Congress was finding it difficult to put up a candidate against Advani. Reportedly, Congress leaders like Shankersinh Vaghela, former Chief Minister late Chimanbhai Patel’s son Siddharth Patel and former Deputy Chief Minister Narhari Amin have declined offers to contest against Advani.
In 2004, Advani’s winning margin was 2,171,138 votes. In 2009, it was 1,21,747. So, what was the immediate reason for Advani leaving Gandhinagar for Bhopal apart from personal grudge?
The Journey has not ended!
After publicly showing his displeasure for the Party’s current leadership and their decisions , L.K. Advani has come back to his blogs after nearly two months. He reaffirmed his long adherence to RSS, but at the same time left the residue of speculation by saying that his political journey “has not yet ended”.
“When I look back at my life of over eight decades… I remind myself that I found my calling in life when, on a tennis court in Hyderabad (Pakistan’s Sindh), I first heard the name of the RSS and became a swayamsevak in 1942. I found meaning when I left home to work as a pracharak of the RSS…” , he became nostalgic.
Then came, the conclusion with a piece headlined, “How Association with RSS has given meaning to my life”: “It is a journey that has not yet ended. From the age of fourteen-and-a-half years till now, only one duty had defined the purpose of my life: to serve my Motherland.”
Advani’s close associates Jaswant Singh and Harin Pathak, who had strong reservation against Modi failed to get a tickets from BJP this time. Uma Bharati has to be satisfied with a seat outside his home State, in UP’s Jhansi. Close to Varanasi, from Buxer in Bihar, veteran BJP leader Lalmuni Chaubey decided to quit the party, after he was denied a ticket. A close associate of Karpoori Thakur, Chaubey was close to Advani since his Jansangh days.
Jaswant Singh has now almost repeated Advani’s earlier words: “It is unfortunate the BJP has been taken over by elements who have never respected the party’s ideology.” This is in the background of senior RSS leader Dattatreya Hosbole publicly taking pride recently, in the advent of a “Swayamsevak” as the country’s most popular leader! Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat however, told his colleagues that RSS could not be expected to cheer-lead for NaMo! But the writing on the wall is clear.
Recently, the feminist activist and Narendra Modi supporter Madhu Kishwar created a new word and ripples in political circles when she accused a clique of BJP party insiders , coined as the “160-club”, trying to subvert Modi’s prospect. Ironically, BJP’s PM candidate, Narendra Modi, owes his present position to Advani’s close group who shielded him against the then Prime Minister Vajpayee’s reported wish to do away with Modi, after the 2002 Gujarat riots!
As the political observers say, Advani himself used to lead a followers group who always took on his opponents within the party, keeping him in contention for the top post.
But where are they now?
Govindacharya left the Party, Uma Bharati left and re-induced, but she lost her glory. Kalyan Singh, who led BJP in UP with greater clout, thrice became the CM, was thrown out of the Party. Though reinduced, he is a spent force now.
Leaders with grass root base, Kalyan Singh and Madan Lal Khurana publicly blamed the Advani coterie, for side-lining them and ending their careers! In Jharkhand after humiliated Babulal Marandi left the party, BJP could not find his replacement till date. The same is the story with a capable and blameless leader B.C. Khanduri in Uttarakhand! Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, once close to Advani have now adjusted in the new reality and the new milieu!
It is a fact, Advani being one at the Advani-Vajpayee power centre, virtually controlled the post Jansangh, BJP till 2004. And then Advani as the PM in waiting, failed to deliver results! BJP lost its power in 2004. And despite a corrupt and controversial rulling party at the centre , BJP was unable to win in 2009 too.
Advani, who tried to mollify his image as a Hindu hard-liner, in the quest of PM’s post, started his new Journey from the days of his visit to Pakistan. But it was an ominous beginning for relaunching himself. In the process he ultimately antagonised the parental organisation RSS.
He has also turned older to be the face of a re-emerging party, which is fervently seeking a vote base of a growing younger generation! At 87, as the RSS leadership pointed out long ago, that he is fit for the role of a guide and mentor, for the party, rather than being posed as a Prime Ministerial aspirant.
For him, the old saying of Tennyson has always been there: “The old order changeth yielding place to new”! The Patriarch should now read the remaining part of this quote, which says: “Comfort thyself. What comfort is in me I have lived my life and that which I have done.”Is L.K. Advani still angry, or feeling comfortable with himself?
By Deep Basu
Advani Spewing Fire