Thursday, March 12, 2009

So near, yet so far ...

In the mid-nineties, in one of the BJP parliamentary party meetings, Advani stood up to speak and announced that Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Apparently Vajpayee was surprised too, at this announcement, and asked Advani after the meeting, “mujse pooche tho hote aap”. To which Advani replied, “pooche tho aap manenge nahi”. This announcement is seen as one of the best master strokes by Advani in the party’s history.

The legend of Lal Krishna Advani is replete with many such critical decisions that were extremely crucial in the meteoric rise of the BJP from a party holding merely two seats in Parliament to ruling the country for a full 6 years. Soon after he took over the mantle of party Presidentship from Vajpayee in the mid- 80’s, he realised that the moderate image is not helping the party. In his efforts to rebuild the party, he began the transformation to a more hard core approach and that’s when Hindutva was born. The Ram Temple issue aroused many passions around the country, and most of it did transform into a lot of votes. The result – BJP won 86 seats all over the country in 1989! From 2 in 1984 to 86 in 1989, a force to counter the Congress nation wide was finally born.

Wistful of the past as he may be, the mistake Advani is making now is raking up the issue again! 2009 is no 1989. For one thing, people are tired of the same issue. It really does not matter to a lot of voters now if Ram Temple came up at Ayodhya or not. Hindutva surely isn’t arousing the same passion that can transform into votes. Supporters argue that there is nothing wrong in going back to the basics, but when they don’t hold ground anymore what is the point?

The root problem is that Advani has become a prisoner of his own convictions. When he proposed Vajpayee’s name, he entirely knew that only a moderate face can win it wider acceptability. Vajpayee did not have to change himself, or pretend to be a moderate face. He was the moderate face of the BJP. And voters trusted that fact too. Advani could see it coming. Though both he and Vajpayee had the stuff in them to become PM, he knew only Vajpayee is acceptable to a larger section. He had to change his convictions to become more acceptable, and that was not acceptable to his conscience at that point of time.

With Vajpayee gone (retired from active politics), he had no other option but to show transformation. Whether he transformed or not is a different issue, but he had to show it. The result – hailing Jinnah in 2006! It backfired. And how! He was even asked to step down as President of the party. No one in their wildest dreams even imagined that such a day would come where Advani would be forced to give up the post of President. If you watched the euphoria in the cadre when he was elected President for the 3rd time in 2005, it would have been even harder to believe. If cadre found it difficult to accept the change, imagine the common man. I also looked at it from another angle. The party did not hesitate to take action against its own icon, which is truly remarkable in nature. It’s hard to imagine such things happening in other parties (we’ll talk about this issue too in the future :D ).

When in power, it took Vajpayee a full 4 years to make him the Deputy Prime Minister. Not that he didn’t want to appoint him to the post, but it took so long to convince the allies. That was the only time he came closest to becoming the Prime Minister.

The BJP might have put up impressive performances in many states in the last couple of years. But in country wide election, it is hard to see how Advani can win a majority for the NDA. As of today, the party has neglible presence in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orrisa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. I am mentioning only the big states now because these states were the ones that mattered when the NDA was in power. The party has bright and possibly sure shot chances in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. The North-east does not hold too much of a promise though.

The party also has some of the best election strategists, all of them relentlessy working to make Advani the PM. His website is being marketed very extensively. I am pretty much sure everyone around is missing Pramod Mahajan sorely. The story would have been totally different if he was around too. Such is the impact of this man.

L.K.Advani was the man behind one of the finest Prime Ministers India had. He came very close to becoming PM once. His other and only chance is now. Maybe, he is closer than ever before though. But I think his dream will remain unfulfilled, largely because of the acceptability factor. May 16th, 2009 will again prove that Advani’s case is an excellent example of “so near, yet so far”.


appu said...

Nicely written, mama.

I too wish Pramod Mahajan were around. He was the one guy whose candidature for PM could've galvanized votes for the BJP like no other. But we have to live with what we've got :).

Between Advani and Modi, I guess Advani will enjoy greater acceptance especially from the international community. That's one point you've probably not considered (or did but didn't mention).

Part of me also think it's not in the destiny of certain people to become what they wish to, for no real fault of theirs. It's just that the circumstances around them conspire to prevent them from reaching their ultimate goal. This was the case with ND Tewari and this may well be the case for Advani, although I'd hate bracket these two individuals in the same category, for obvious reasons :).

appu said...

By the way, subscribe to

It's a very convenient amalgamation of all kinds of election news syndicated across various online channels and publishing houses.

Disclaimer: That site is the (partial) work of a friend of mine.

Anonymous said...

yes sudhir i found answers to many of my queries . its a scary situation to not have a choice and i was wondering whats on the BJP agenda. Maybe it would still be a congress sweep - in the hope that this economic crisis would not explode but kindly of gently slow poison us .

SysErr said...

Well written. Never thought a pinko like you would ever understand the dynamics of a right wing political party. :-)
BJP, just like the Republican Party in US, needs an icon very badly. Be it a hard-core hindutva guy like Advani/Modi or a neo right wing politician like Pramod Mahajan. Advaniji, tough luck !

Sudhir said...

60 years of Direct/Indirect(outside support to I.K.Gujral,Deve Gowda etc) rule of Congress has ruined this country.It is shame that even today we dont have citizenship card.We have to show our drivers license,etc to prove that we are INDIAN citizen or for that matter address proof. Congress party claims credit for the economic developement and boom in service industries...this credit is not because of congress rule at all...
This credit should go to indian working class and some business entrepreneur's who explored new ideas/exposed india to outside world. This way we got business from outside world to our service industries..IT services is part of that.Also not to forget 60 years of congress rule in india saw part of kashmir being lost to our neighbour despite winning war(BIGGEST SHAME), and congress party which also portrays NEHRU as father figure within party, did think about panchsheel before sending troops to Sri Lanka. Congress never does walk the talk.Why congress party always looks towards one family(GANDHI FAMILY), when decision to choose for highest executive position of country(PM)....Prime ministership is not some families inherited property? WE DONT GET GLORY BY CHANGING MUMBAI TO BOMBAY,MADRAS TO CHENNAI OR CALCUTTA TO KOLKOTA, BUT MY CHOOSING A BETTER COURSE ON OUR WAY TO FUTURE, THIS REQUIRES REFORMATION IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM,CONSTITUTION AND PEOPLE'S MINDSET. UNTIL THEN NEW PARTIES WILL BE COMING AND WORK TOWARDS ACHIEVING THEIR PERSONAL BENEFITS....

Anonymous said...

I believe Advani deserves to get a chance to show how good/bad a PM he can be. Else we will be left with that ultimate question "Could he have been the best PM to lead our country?"

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