Understanding Advani AMI T DAVE/REUTERS
Narendra Modi and and L K Advani, in happier times.
L K Advani with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004. Even Vajpayee never criticized the party openly like this, says
Sudheendra Kulkarni, though it was well known that he had serious differences with the BJP’s stance on
certain issues and particularly with the interference of the RSS.
PAWAN KUMAR/REU TERS
The shock treatment that Advani
administered to the BJP has simply no
parallel in India’s modern political history
Strength, said Mahatma Gandhi, does not come from physical capacity. It comes from one’s moral capacity.
Strength in this sense is age-agnostic.
L K Advani, the 85-year-old and super-fit
patriarch of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is
an admirer of the Mahatma. He does not
agree with all that Gandhiji did and
preached. But in one key respect, he is
more Gandhian than most Indian political
leaders. If truthfulness is the source and the
main criterion of one’s moral capacity,
Advani is unfailingly truthful in his political and personal conduct.
When he does not want to reply to a certain question, he may not reveal the truth
hidden in the answer to that question. But
he will never tell an untruth. He will never
mislead someone or indulge in a cunning
or dishonest ploy for self-benefit.
In India’s increasingly competitive and
divisive multiparty politics, there are many
who do not agree with the ideology of the
party that Advani belongs to, nor with his
views and positions on many issues.
Nevertheless, he commands respect across
the political spectrum — from the Congress
party to the communists, and from the
Samajwadi Party to the Shiv Sena.
Third, and most damningly, he censured
many of the top and middle-level func-
tionaries of the BJP by commenting that
‘most leaders of ours are now concerned
just with their personal agendas.’
Even Vajpayee, who founded and built
the BJP along with Advani, never criticized
the party openly like this, even though it
was well known within party circles and
outside that he had serious differences with
the BJP’s stance on certain issues and, par-
ticularly, with the interference of the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the
affairs of the BJP. Therefore, in terms of the
sheer directness and depth of criticism of
one’s own party, and that too by someone
who has been an architect of that party, the
shock treatment that Advani administered
to the BJP has simply no parallel in India’s
modern political history.