say that his concerns will be ‘properly
Does Advani have a personal agenda?
Two questions arise here. Was Advani’s
action dictated by the call of his conscience? Second, was his call of conscience
guided by his own personal agenda?
A person’s conscience is his or her own
inner voice that is never audible to others,
and most often not fully audible even to the
person concerned. Precisely for this reason,
we cannot dismiss a stand taken by someone when that person claims it to be guided by the ‘inner voice’.
For example, we cannot scoff at Sonia
Gandhi’s explanation for sacrificing the
office of prime minister when her party had
unanimously offered it to her in May 2004.
Advani has not claimed that his decision
was in response to the call of his conscience. But it isn’t difficult to glean that he
could not have taken such a momentous
decision —especially one that he knew
could potentially harm him in a debilitat-ing way — without it stemming from the
depths of his agonizing conversation with
himself. After all, in preaching and practicing discipline and self-restraint in the
internal functioning of the party, Advani
has had few equals.
Precisely for this reason, he was both
respected and feared by his party men,
until his position was thoughtlessly weakened by the RSS in the wake of a manufactured controversy over his visit to Pakistan
in 2005 and his comments on Mohammed
Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
Therefore, if such a scrupulous disciplinarian chose to take the extreme step of not
just resigning from all the key party posts,
but also severely chastising his party’s senior colleagues for both ‘the current functioning’ of the BJP and ‘the direction in
which it is going’, it is reasonable to conclude that Advani’s conscience has spoken
through his action.
But did Advani do what he did because he
too was guided by a personal agenda?
Specifically, was his action triggered by the
fact that he had been ‘sulking’ — a favorite
word in a section of the Indian media in its
description of his current state of mind —
because the party is not going to contest the
next parliamentary elections by declaring
him as its prime ministerial candidate?
The party did fight the 2009 general elections under his leadership, and faced a
debacle, winning less seats than it had done
in 2004. There is little doubt that Advani’s
leadership, weakened from within by certain party leaders and the Sangh Parivar,
contributed largely to the BJP’s defeat. On
critical issues and at critical junctures,
when he ought to have shown toughness
and foresight, he chose to remain weak and
indecisive. This proved to be costly since it
undermined his own political attack,
mounted in the course of his poll campaign, on Dr Manmohan Singh as the
‘weakest ever prime minister’.
Nobody has ever accepted Dr Singh to be
a strong prime minister. His strength in
office came, and continues to come, from a
politically strong leader like Sonia Gandhi
who believed in him.
In Advani’s case, he was indeed debilitat-
ed by the Sangh Parivar, which no longer
L K Advani with BJP President Rajnath Singh.
B MATHUR/REU TERS
believed in him and which, moreover,
stoked the leadership ambitions of some in
the so-called ‘second generation’ functionaries of the BJP.
Since the defeat of the BJP in the 2009
parliamentary elections, there is nothing in
Advani’s conduct to suggest that he has
indulged in scheming and manipulation to
advance his personal agenda. Yes, he has
not announced his retirement from active
politics, much against the wishes of many
people in the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.
This is perhaps because he may genuinely
believe, and rightly so, that he still has
something vital to contribute to the nation
and to the party that he has so painstakingly built.
Five years later, a new ‘strong’ leader,
Narendra Modi, has emerged in the BJP,
whom many in the party and Sangh Parivar
are over-eager to see as the party’s prime
However, there are some in the BJP and
the RSS, and many outside these two
organizations, who reckon that he is not
suitable to become India’s prime minister.
The elements of Modi’s ‘strength’ are
qualitatively different from those of
Advani’s, something that is well known to
people who know both of them closely. As
the chief minister of Gujarat for the past 12
years, Modi certainly has many admirable
achievements to his credit. But are these
achievements enough to qualify him to
become India’s prime minister? No.
There is no evidence of Modi being a collaborative team worker within his own
state party unit and government; how then
can he be expected to manage a coalition?
It is a sign of the utter shortsightedness of
the BJP, a party that claims to be guided by
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s ‘Integral
Humanism’, a philosophical treatise of lofty
ideals, and a party whose tallest leader,
Vajpayee, once praised Advani as the
‘Deendayalji of our times’, that it has now
begun to value Modi’s ‘strengths’ over
Sudheendra Kulkarni served as an aide to
former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee in the Prime Minister’s Office
between 1998 and 2004. He was also
active in the BJP from 1996 to 2013, and
worked closely with L K Advani. Kulkarni
resigned from the BJP in January due to
strong ideological differences over two
issues — the BJP’s neglect of Indian
Muslims and the growing control of the
RSS over the BJP. He welcomes comments