It is immaterial whether L K Advani was denied BJP ticket to contest from his old Lok Sabha seat, Gandhingar, or he himself opted out of active political life. Reports suggest that at 91, the former BJP strongman had conveyed to the party leadership his wish to withdraw from the contest. This was the right decision. However powerful and good one might have been in one’s job, there comes a time in everyone’s life when s/he has to call it a day.
In a party that swears by culture and sanskars, it is unbelievable that the BJP chief Amit Shah would have replaced Advani as candidate in the Gandhinagar constituency without first getting the latter’s approval. Observing such courtesies harms no one and goes a long way in maintaining conducive inter-personal relationships. In fact, it is time that another Margdarshak came forward to announce his sanyas from electoral politics.
Murli Manohar Joshi is not only old but, unlike Advani, is in a poor state of health. He, too, has had a long innings in Parliament and ought to make way for a younger leader. Without doubt, the aging veterans have contributed immensely to the growth of the BJP. In particular, Advani’s role in building the party along with his senior, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is widely acknowledged.
It was his controversial Ram Rath Yatra in the late 80s and early 90s that helped BJP expand its organisational base and catchment area from its traditional urban and small town lower and middle classes to OBCs, Dalits and other castes. Advani provided a sharp ideological sheen to the BJP when he espoused the Hindutva cause and derided what he called the appeasement of the minorities by the Congress governments with an eye on netting their votes en bloc.
Along with appeasement, Advani made pseudo-secularism an integral part of the vocabulary of everyday political discourse, forcing the Congress on the back foot. A quintessential organizational man, he groomed a host of younger leaders. Whether it is Modi, who was one of the general secretaries when Advani was the party president, or Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jailey, and a host of lesser known state and central leaders, Advani spotted the talent and honed it. Indeed, a lesser known fact about Advani was his excellent parliamentary skills.
He was precise, to the point, logical and did his homework thoroughly. Vajpayee was leagues ahead in public oration but tended to take a sweeping view of the subject under discussion in Parliament. Advani stuck to the subject however mundane it may have been and provided the BJP view in a concise and well-reasoned manner.
Besides, the most remarkable thing about Advani is that in spite spending more than six decades in active politics, there is not a single stain on his sterling character. He was squeaky clean when it came to money matters. Nor did his children ever poke their noses into party or government affairs when he was Home Minister in the Vajpayee Government.
As one of the founding members of the Jana Sangh, the precursor to the BJP, Advani encapsulates the entire story of the BJP. How the party struggled to find supporters when the Congress Party under Nehru was a monolith, how it was reduced to a mere two seats in the 1984 poll after the assassination of Indira Ganhdi
how it embraced the defining Ram temple movement and made it into a clarion call for a vast majority of Hindus in large swathes of the country, how the party succeeding in ending its ‘untouchability’ for it to be able to rope in smaller parties to forge a ruling coalition in the National Democratic Alliance, etc, speak volumes for the strategic skills of Advani.
He led the party thought the most difficult times, providing it direction and purpose. Handling pressure from diverse quarters associated with the RSS to devise a middle path was Advani’s strength. He was a disciplined soldier of the party and even when the party seemed to be lacking in grace and respect towards him, he bore it in silence.
As a well-read man with eclectic interests, Advani would do a lasting service to the party he built brick by brick from its inception if he were to write its unvarnished story for historians and BJP cadres to profit from. He is in good health. And we hope he will put his time to good use for the sake of the party which was virtually his life’s work and, therefore, must remain eternally grateful to him.