L K Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi: Fade away quietly

BJP veteran L K Advani does not seem to be in a mood to fade away gracefully. Which is bound to make him a figure of ridicule, even pity. At 90, he has seen it all, done it all, and he should now look forward to spending the rest of his years in quiet reflection, and, possibly, updating his autobiography. First, he erred in not publicly disavowing any intention to contest the Lok Sabha poll. He was aware that the incumbent leadership was disinclined to repeat him a record 7th time from Gandhinagar. And rightly so. He has no lien on that seat or, for that matter, any other seat.

In fact, given his advanced years, he ought to have called it a day much earlier. Yet, he failed to bow out gracefully from active parliamentary life. He was denied the ticket. Again, he missed an opportunity when requested by senior party functionaries to bless his successor in the Gandhinagar constituency by being present when he filed his nomination papers. Advani declined the opportunity to show magnanimity and statesmanship.

And then he penned a blog on the eve of the BJP’s foundation day. Nothing wrong in reading homilies to those who control the party now, but it would have been better if it had been done within a party forum. Or if he had talked one-to-one to Modi and Amit Shah. Of course, no one should equate political adversaries as enemies. Or treat those you do not agree with as anti-national. Founding principles of the Republic such as the fundamental freedoms, diversity, tolerance, etc must be respected by all.

Nation before the party, and party before self is the mantra RSS-BJP claim to have lived by all along. If so, Advani going into a sulk when denied the ticket and embarrassing the party shows him rather poor light. He ought to have known that his words would be exploited by the Opposition. Rahul Gandhi and even Sitaram Yechuri have used Advani’s blog to hit out the BJP’s lead campaigner.

Given that all parties in the on-going campaign were to blame for lowering the level of discourse, Advani seemed to suggest that the fault lay only with the BJP leaders. It was only in the post-Balakot phase that those questioning the veracity of the air strikes were accused of speaking the language of the enemy since Pakistan denied any such attacks had taken place.

Even the reference to ‘tukde tukde gang’ was in context of the Congress promise to review the AFSPA, a demand vociferously raised by the JNU students who cried for azadi for Kashmir at numerous students’ rallies. In other words, the use of the seemingly strong references was context-specific. Also, at election-time it is not surprising for politicians to use strong words to win over the voters. Advani would have carried more conviction had he gently suggested to the party leadership to lower the tone of the discourse.

But he played straight into the hands of the BJP’s rivals, handing them an issue to hammer Modi with from the poll pulpit. His anger at being denied a role in the party affairs, and/or being denied an official sinecure, seems to have got the better of him. Meanwhile, another BJP veteran, Murali Manohar Joshi, 85, who too finds himself ticketless in the election season is itching to make trouble for the party.

Reports in a section of the media speak of his meetings with the Opposition leaders. Hopefully, better sense would prevail. Joshi, unlike Modi, did not have much to contribute to the making of the present-day BJP. By dint of his long years in the party, he has come to acquire the stature of a veteran.

Though younger than Advani, he seems to be in much poorer shape. He should stop dreaming of retaining the sarkari bungalow and other perks that come by appending two letters, MP, behind one’s name. And revive his contact with the world of books and science back home in Allahabad.

Why belittle oneself by seeking to perpetuate active political life right into the grave? Most people are made to retire at 60. Company directors are forced out by SEBI at 75. What is so special about politics that its practitioners must go on and on till the Maker summons them?

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