Can BJP do without Advani?

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 17, 2013 14:46 hrs

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) patriarch LK Advani appears to have made his peace with the fact that Narendra Modi will be Prime Minister of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) if it comes to power. It is another matter that smart ally management will be needed, judging by opinion polls which suggest that forget 200 seats, the BJP is unlikely to cross 175.
If 162 (as the most recent poll suggests) is the best complexion the BJP can put to its electoral prospects,we need to ask two questions: why? And how the BJP is going to make up the rest of the numbers.

The fact is what Advani had said earlier, before his party got caught in the grips of Modi hysteria, needs revisiting. Privately, he had told friends: It is not Modi I am opposing; it is what Modi is associated with. There is a wave of revulsion against the Congress sweeping the country: against cronyism, against corruption. It is that wave that has to be turned into a political tide. That way we can take along with us, all those forces which are opposed to the Congress. If you project Modi (as PM) all discussion will stop at 2002 and Godhra: whether it was good or bad, should it have happened, etc.
So in the BJP, there is a sense that while Modi brings a lot to the table – his public speaking, his charisma with young people, his record of governance – he also takes away a lot. Consider the opinion polls: Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal is seen as getting 14 seats in Bihar. This would have never happened if the BJP and the Janata Dal United had been together, presenting a common front against memories of Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi's misrule. They split on the issue of Modi becoming Prime Minister. Similarly, Maulana Madni's warning to the Congress – don't frighten us, don't take Muslims for granted – is a cry of desperation to be understood, not an endorsement of Modi.
There is no one on the political horizon as sharp as LK Advani when it comes to understanding complexities of Indian politics. You need to have had the experience of managing fractious coalition partners, your own hindutva-wallahs and the ability to do the impossible – make deals where everyone thinks they've won. We saw that when he was leading the rath yatras, when he was Home minister and as Convenor of NDA, when George Fernandes became too ill to handle it.
Advani can do without the BJP; but make no mistake, the BJP will find it very difficult to do without Advani.

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