The iconic leader no one seems to remember

by March 23, 2019 0 comments

While LK Advani is out from the poll race, the respect he has garnered cannot be taken away

Ironies are an integral part of political power play. And none should know this more closely than Lal Krishna Advani, doyen of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for decades and later Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India. His unceremonious ouster from the BJP’s 2019 list of Lok Sabha nominees from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, the seat he represented in Parliament, is a transparent signal that the party he built with his own hands no longer needs his guidance and for its new monitors, Mr Advani is perhaps more of a burden than a source of inspiration. This is indeed ironic for it was Mr Advani who rebuilt it block-by-block, at least from 1984, when it had collapsed to an abysmal tally of two seats in the Lok Sabha and brought it to its unassailable position in 2014. Arguably, he was past his prime in terms of age, although physically and mentally he demonstrated no sense of illness or fatigue. His ouster from Parliament, therefore, probably has little to do with age and more with the generation gap that was visibly widening between him and the current crop of party leaders who have been ill at ease with his towering stature.

The bigger irony is that almost every BJP leader today is a handpicked protégé of Mr Advani but have behaved like impatient children, straining at the leash to cut off their filial bond with the parent. This is truly tragic and flies in the face of India’s much-vaunted cultural tradition which emphasises reverence towards family elders. But in this case, it is not just a question of family bonds. LK Advani led the BJP through a succession of adversities and ignominy to make it India’s foremost political outfit. His innovative usage of the motorised Rath Yatra to mobilise people for the construction of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya may remain controversial but was undoubtedly the turning point in the country’s contemporary history. In fact, it set India’s political agenda since the early 1990s and continues to dominate the political discourse even today. Despite being bestowed with the epithet of “Iron Man”, his ability to cobble together coalitions was unmatched and he enjoyed a rapport with other political leaders, enabling the Jana Sangh and its successor to carve out a dominant position in the political firmament. A Parliamentarian par excellence, Mr Advani’s erudite contributions to debates in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha won him applause from all sections of the two Houses. Despite age not being on his side, his intellectual sharpness, vivid memory and remarkable knowledge of history and politics dwarfed most contemporaries. Somehow, he was viewed by most as a man who would never retire from politics and never cease to contribute to the national discourse.

Whatever the BJP leadership’s compulsion in sidelining him from the benches of Parliament, India will be poorer for his absence from the esteemed Houses. Together with his life-long friend and comrade Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away only last year, Mr Advani signified a glorious era in Indian politics and even if he is no longer a Member of Parliament (MP), will undoubtedly continue to contribute to national debates. Few people have the natural talent for building organisations and also guiding the nation at the same time. Mr Advani’s role may have now been cut to size but the respect he will enjoy till the very end of his life can never be taken away. The termination of his role as MP, therefore, is only a punctuation mark, not a full stop to a remarkable political career.

Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer

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