- Aditi Phadnis
L K Advani's place in modern Indian political history is secure on the strength of his having presided over the biggest Hindu consolidation the country has seen. Like it or not, it happened. He led the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign that led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid in the early 1990s, declaring at the same time when this happened that "it was the saddest day" in his life because party workers had run amok.
Later, he had no word of regret when Muslims in Gujarat were butchered in a pogrom in 2002, whereas Atal Bihari Vajpayee at least made some placatory noises (like asking the state government to do its duty).
That is why he is seen as a divisive figure, though Advani insists he is no bigot. He rarely goes to temples or wears external signs of being a Hindu. Indeed, people who meet him say they see a thoughtful and well-read individual, even a liberal, looking for ideas and for people to give them shape through action.
His is a long journey that began in Karachi where he began his career by joining the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) when still in his early teens. After Partition, he worked for some years in Rajasthan before moving to Delhi city politics and being asked by the Sangh to help the new-born Bharatiya Jana Sangh (as the BJP was known before 1979) to get moving. He was the organic link between the BJP and its parent, the RSS, and has been more of a builder of the party than Vajpayee, familiar as he was with party workers at the local level in many parts.
In many ways, this was the pre-1989 Advani, a complete organisation man. This was a period of consolidation of the Hindu 'feeling' and for his energy and endeavour, even his worst enemies in the party will give Advani nine marks out of 10. In 1986/87, Advani became president of the BJP for the first time. The party declared Hindutva (Hindu-ness) as its central credo. In 1989, the party entered into an electoral coalition with the Vishvanath Pratap Singh-led Janata Dal, having set up candidates strategically.
Text: Business Standard