The one name that is making headlines of late is that of former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani. Ever since the Modi dispensation took over, Advani’s coterie had put out the buzz that he would become the President of India. This pinnacle was to elude him.
His fans do not realise that the entire exercise and how it panned out for Advani was scripted by both Modi and Mohan Bhagwat. They had together consolidated their hold on the party by showing the door to those who had allegiance towards Advani and none of this happened overnight.
At the funeral of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on seeing a picture of a tearful Advani, I had thought of an apt caption – that the ‘one waiting in wings as prime minister’ was suddenly a lonely and a forlorn figure; the tears were the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back.
Vajpayee had disappeared from the political scene for a decade and that was Advani’s quandary. Moreover, once Modi’s popularity started sweeping the country, the BJP had conveniently forgotten the Atal-Advani era. With that, Advani’s political isolation was complete. This poignant moment was captured in the aforesaid picture for which a thousand words would not have sufficed.
If one has to write a book on the numerous politicians who have been denied the post they vied for, it would have all the ingredients of a political potboiler; the dramatis personae would be Sharad Pawar, Narayan Rane, Maywati and Mulayam Singh, among a few others. But Advani’s biography would read like a great Greek tragedy in which he alone could have enacted the lead role.
The country has paid a heavy price for the politics of Advani and the BJP – a party which harped on a self-serving Hindutva ideology from time to time; this, on many occasions, led to unleashing of violence. His style as an orator and the bigotry he perpetuated was unacceptable to some. But it upped his political acceptability on the national level. In both personal and public life, he had impeccable credentials.
When his name figured in a hawala case, he resigned from the public post he held and duly appeared for the inquiry, clearing his name. His undying loyalty to the BJP and his dedication have seen him through over seven-and-a-half decades in politics. Advani was born in Karachi on 8 November 1927 and he stayed back in India after the partition.
He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in 1942. He has been active in Indian politics ever since. The Vajpayee-Advani pair had been formidable and one of its kind. Both took their party, the BJP, from near zero to a thriving national political party. They expanded the presence of their party strategically across the country.
This pair ensured that the public face of their party was a gentle poet, Vajpayee, and on the other hand, a dedicated strong leader with hardcore Hindutva ideology, Advani. His political journey has been one wherein he has made an indelible mark in the Indian political history, having undertaken the Rath Yatra in 1992, which changed the course of countr’s politics permanently.
In 2019 polls, along with Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra (who made the pre-emptive move and declared he will not contest) and Sushma Swaraj have all been denied tickets. Now, the BJP has clearly ridden itself free from Vajpayee-Advani era, which has been clearly replaced by the Modi-Shah regime. And it is evident, their hold on the party will remain.
(The writer is a former editor of Loksatta, Nagpur )