LK Advani — left out in the cold

Published: March 22, 2014
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The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes for several newspapers in India

The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes for several newspapers in India

Never thought it would happen, but it has. One is feeling sorry for old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani –– a man who worked selflessly and ceaselessly for the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and also played a key role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque that catapulted his party to power. He has been shortchanged by both the BJP and the RSS more than once.

The first was really what became Advani versus Atal Bihari Vajpayee, where the latter became the prime minister, while the former sulked through this period. Of course, then, Advani put a good face on it even though his supporters always let it be known from a remark here, or a hint there, that Advani was not particularly enthused by Vajpayee’s style of leadership and would have done a far better job had he been the man at the helm of the government. But even so, the two worked well together.

But the real humiliation has come now. Advani, who was positive that his day would come and that the RSS and the BJP would anoint him as leader, has received many shocks in the last few months. The first was when he realised that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who till not so long ago was touching his feet, had slowly but systematically acquired a commanding position in the RSS and the BJP. Advani lived with a sense of entitlement that the premiership would finally be his. Modi set about puncturing that entitlement in the eyes of those who mattered the most in this process –– the RSS.

No wonder Advani had tears in his eyes not so long ago and wept publicly. The hurt must be phenomenal and the feeling of being let down even more so by a party he had raised like a baby from two seats in parliament to power through a calibrated policy of divisiveness. But then the master was outmastered and it is a difficult realisation. And the humiliation now is complete. Yet the old man sticks on, threatening on occasion, but getting virtually pushed around by Modi and his supporters, with his protests becoming more muted and shaky as the Lok Sabha polls approach.

First, Advani had to contend with being virtually left out of the candidate selection process. No one asked him, and being a little more dignified than many in the BJP, he did not speak when it became clear he was no longer wanted.

Two, the campaign strategy was finalised without Advani’s input. And what is perhaps worse, he is not being asked to campaign either. It is Modi and Modi all the way, with Advani sitting the 2014 elections out, with no one inviting him for the campaign. It is suddenly as if the leader is no more.

And three, what is perhaps the worst blow, Advani was pushed to contest from a constituency without his consent. Advani, who used to determine the BJP candidates for parliamentary elections, was thus today struggling to get a seat of his choice. Anyway, to cut a long humiliating story short, the RSS has hammered out a solution and the old BJP leader has agreed to contest from Gandhinagar after the BJP announced that he was free to decide for himself. A victory? No one really seems to think so.

The chicken, they say, is coming home to roost, and perhaps the past is catching up with Advani –– isolated and friendless in the BJP. There are many who are writing off Advani and with him, off the senior leadership of the BJP.

But then there is a ‘never’ in politics and every politician, so long as he is physically and mentally able, can roll back just when all have written him or her off. And who knows, an opportunity might offer itself when the ballots have been cast and the votes have been counted. Post-poll in India is now as important as the poll itself.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • G. Din
    Mar 22, 2014 - 12:32AM

    There are many who would say, with a great deal of justification, that he got his desserts. He committed the most cardinal sins in a democracy. He committed breach of his election promises, breach of trust and breach of faith with those who catapulted his party from a 2 member presence in the Parliament to a 180 member presence and placed it at the gates of power. For this, his party lost two elections back-to-back. He as well as his mentor, Vajpayee, had a knack of shooting their own feet. One prostreated at Minar-e- Pakistan and got nothing for that. The other prostrated at mazaar-e-Jinnah which drew utter contempt for him from the public. Deviousness, opportunism and cunning does not take you too far even in a profession such as politics!
    Considering he showed considerable reluctance for standing for election from the Gandhinagar (Gujarat) constituency, it is not certain that those who elected him regularly before may also not abandon him this time.

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  • Deepwater
    Mar 22, 2014 - 12:42AM

    India is one of the youngest countries on the planet. So, how can one expect an 86-year old Advani or 81-year old Manmohan Singh to even relate with a country whose median age is 25? I for one don’t feel sorry for these prehistoric relics being swept aside.

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  • Strategic Asset
    Mar 22, 2014 - 2:46AM

    One of the few times I agree with the author.

    Not sure what the reasoning by BJP is. Perhaps they feel that Advani is not as much a mass leader as Modi is. Perhaps they perceive that people feel Advani given his Babri Masjid background is more divisive than Modi who has largely been exonerated for the post-Godhra riots and has kept communal harmony in his state since. Perhaps it is the unwarranted Jinnah reference that people, especially those in the BJP, still remember. Perhaps it is the fact that Advani has always played second fiddle and was not actually a point-man for anything in particular unlike Modi who has a 12 year track record of running things as CM. There could be various other reasons, but I doubt we will ever hear the exact reason why.

    Personally, I am all for getting newer faces in parliament and am not going to cry over him or others like Jaswant Singh. However hypothetically if Vajpayee was in the fray, it would be a completely different ball-game altogether.

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  • mahakaalchakra
    Mar 22, 2014 - 6:29AM

    “All BJP leaders (listed names of 9 leaders) who are above 75 year of age should retire and make space for younger leaders”, thus spake the spokesperson of the RSS.

    Advani failed twice to make BJP victorious, first in 2004 and then in 2009 so he has no moral authority to seek reelection at the age of 86 plus. Why suddenly so much love for Advani in the hearts of pseudo-secular media?

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  • OnesNTwos
    Mar 22, 2014 - 11:33AM

    “Never thought it would happen, but it has. One is feeling sorry for LK Advani”

    Yup – had to happen – after all ‘one’s’ hatred for Advani is lesser than ‘one’s’ hatred for Modi – so on balance ‘one’ had no choice but to start feeling sorry for old Advani.

    If it’s any consolation, ‘two’s’ feeling sooo sorry for ‘one’s’ acute predicament.

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  • OnesNTwos
    Mar 22, 2014 - 11:36AM

    **”Never thought it would happen, but it has. One is feeling sorry for LK Advani”**

    Yup – had to happen – after all ‘one’s’ hatred for Advani is lesser than ‘one’s’ hatred for Modi – so on balance ‘one’ had no choice but to start feeling sorry for old Advani.

    If it’s any consolation, ‘two’s’ feeling sooo sorry for ‘one’s’ acute predicament.Recommend

  • Sashi
    Mar 22, 2014 - 12:51PM

    It is indeed amusing to read how sorry Mustafa feels for Advani, a person she relentlessly targeted all these years. One can also discern a gleeful smugness in her sympathy for Advani along with a desperate hope that Modi would be derailed when the votes are counted. Every idea has a time & that time is up for Advani. Instead of behaving petulantly, he should withdraw to the background and be a mentor to Team BJP, else he will end up in the footnotes of BJP history as a pathetic figure.Yet another theory being bandied about ( recently articulated by the redoubtable Madhu Kishwar in a news channel ) is that Advani & Sushma Swaraj are the team B of Congress within BJP and that’s why this wrinkle in the fabric. I really wouldn’t be surprised if that is true!

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  • Lalit
    Mar 22, 2014 - 1:23PM

    by accepting to fight LS election from G’nagar the old fox has literally signed his Political death warrant.now the emotional Gujratis would make the biggest impediment in the path of Modi a relic of past.Modi is not a sage to make efforts for his victory he will only be happy to see his back..Advani has only some chances to make it to his illusive post of PM if BJP and present alliance scores somewhere between 160 to 180 which is highly unlikely in the charged political atmosphere and that too if he somehow miraculously manages to win from Gandhinagar.a pro Modi orchestra is yet to reach its crescendo..and a strange thing is its not pro BJP wave but a Pro Modi wave which even a veteran like LK Advani is reluctant to see.

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  • C. Nandkishore
    Mar 22, 2014 - 3:09PM

    Even before getting it, BJP is punch drunk with the expectation of power. And just like Sri Krishna, in Mahabharat, saw the destruction of Dwaraka, the city he founded, so shall Sri Lal Krishna Advani see the destruction of BJP, the party he founded.

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  • Lalit
    Mar 22, 2014 - 4:15PM

    am i banned from commenting on ET’s READER COMMENTS section?

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  • Parvez
    Mar 22, 2014 - 5:13PM

    In politics and especially so in part politics such ‘ ups-and-downs ‘ happen……..it’s an evolutionary process for the party. Reading more into this would be wrong.

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  • Gratgy
    Mar 22, 2014 - 7:04PM

    It has come to this for the author..Using Advani to hit at Modi? Lame!

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  • kaalchakra
    Mar 23, 2014 - 12:03AM

    Shashi, I am not sure if Madhu Kishwar has actually called this group team B of Congress. She most likely feels that that these BJP people are now de-facto aligned with those in the Congress since the latter have given up on winning the elections for themselves, and are now trying to ‘limit’ the scope and magnitude of Modi’s lead over others.

    .

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  • Lalit
    Mar 23, 2014 - 12:40PM

    @Sashi
    and incidentally both Advani and Swaraj are facing existential crisis in their respective constituencies.people of Gandhinagar and Vidisha (MP) are quiet unhappy with their sitting MPs.it will be a daunting task for Modi to tackle the foes within his party ,while making a mincemeat out of his opponents in other parties.

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  • kk
    Mar 23, 2014 - 9:10PM

    politics is cruel and has no heartRecommend

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