It is sad that BJP stalwart LK Advani appears to be signing out in such a controversial way in what has otherwise been an illustrious career. In fact, save for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, most of his detractors don’t have many bad things to say about him.
Had Advani quit in 2009 when he got defeated in the general elections, then there would have been widespread respect for him.
Still that does not take away his long career and there are still some things that he can be admired for like…
1. Energy: It is amazing that an 85-year-old can have so much energy and enthusiasm. There have been other octogenarian politicians who have been active, but that had more to do with decision making rather than physical fitness.
Advani still speaks freely, attends meetings and is physically on top of his game. One will not be surprised if he announces another yatra to revive his fortunes!
2. Hope: Man lives on hope. But most of us give up a tad too quickly. Think of this man who became a secretary in the RSS way back in 1947, the year of India’s Independence. He has been keeping his dreams alive in a career spanning more than 60 years.
In 2004 he seemed so near his goal, but the NDA lost. He gave one last fighting shot in 2009, interestingly talking of things like corruption, black money and the death penalty for rapists. He was two years too early for that and the people took up those issues only in 2011 onwards.
But Advani still hopes to be PM in 2014 at the age of 86. At some times one has to just admire his audacity of hope!
3. Integrity: In the 1990s, Advani’s initials appeared in the Hawala diaries. Not only did he step down from the leadership of the BJP, but he also refused to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. One has to struggle to think of such a move in Independent India.
His name was totally cleared and no other scandal or corruption charge has come close to him.
4. Selflessness: There is no doubt that Advani had the biggest hand in making AB Vajpayee Prime Minister. Vajpayee was pulled out of retirement and sold as a moderate political alliance figurehead largely by Advani.
It is interesting that reports say that Advani had the biggest hand in making sure Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi stay at his post in 2002. No wonder Advani feels being done in by an ungrateful Modi!
5. Oration: Heir apparent Rahul Gandhi makes silly speeches that impress only the mainstream media. Congress President Sonia Gandhi can’t speak for nuts. Very few countries would tolerate such bad public speakers.
Compared to these two, Advani is a downright brilliant speaker and has been enthralling audiences for decades now.
6. Yatras: As mentioned earlier, only the Ram Janmabhoomi one was controversial. But he did have five other yatras: Janadesh, Swarna Jayanthi, Bharat Uday, Bharat Suraksha and Jan Chetna. The last was undertaken on the eve of his 84th birthday.
While most leaders stay in their ivory towers once they’ve established themselves, here is one leader who has regularly travelled the length and breadth of his country to establish his views.
7. Anti-Congressism: When we got Independence, the CPI was the main Opposition party but never had a pan-India appeal. Thereafter all the major Opposition parties: Swatantra Party, Janata Party and Janata Dal disintegrated.
The BJP was established in 1980 and is the main Opposition even in 2014. We should be thankful for that otherwise we would have an unchecked Congress dictatorship. Advani by far has the biggest hand in building this BJP.
8. Jinnah comment: In 2005, Advani called Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah a secular leader. The RSS hauled him over the coals for that comment. But otherwise there was nothing wrong in it.
Tomorrow if we want peace with Pakistan, then it will have a greater chance if hardliners from both countries push for peace. It may have backfired, but there was nothing wrong with Advani’s overtures in the first place.
Having said all this, all good things come to an end and the Advani era ended in 2009.
He has been overstaying his welcome after that!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs here.