The Advani era ended in 2004

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 20, 2014 06:52 hrs

In the early 1990s, BJP patriarch AB Vajpayee took a backseat and handed the reins of the party to LK Advani, who was the rising star after the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign and the infamous Rath Yatra. Advani fancied himself as a future Prime Minister of India. (Everyone did actually in those days)

Then Advani found his initials in the infamous Hawala diaries and he decided to take a backseat till his name was cleared from the scam that rocked the nation. It was a noble move and Vajpayee came back into the forefront.

Advani now backed Vajpayee for Prime Minister and that was an absolute masterstroke. Vajpayee was sworn-in as PM after the 1996, 1998 and 1999 elections. Vajpayee was the more acceptable face and seen as a moderate. The allies loved him for that even though his critics called him a mukhauta (mask)

Advani was too closely attached to the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid violence and may not have delivered the goods for the BJP, especially in the new coalition era.

Then in 2002, Advani was made Deputy Prime Minister. At that time, everybody expected the NDA to get a second term from 2004-09, but very few expected Vajpayee to complete his term. Advani was touted to take over the reins mid-stream.

While many reasons have been cited for the BJP's shock defeat in 2004 (overconfidence, the India Shining Campaign, anti-incumbency, Tehelka, Godhra etc) one of the biggest was that the Indian electorate rejected Advani, who would have taken over from Vajpayee during that tenure.

At the time of the 2004 defeat, Advani was 76 years old and not someone who could re-energize the party and ensure a comeback. That's when the party should have probably retired him and moved on with someone much younger with a game plan for the future.

But he continued all the same. Then he came out with the infamous "Jinnah is secular" comment in Karachi in 2005. All hell broke loose in the RSS camp it was finally curtains for him. The RSS wrath forced him to give up his BJP presidency and Rajnath Singh entered the picture.

One would have thought that Advani would have retired gracefully after that. But that was not to be. Advani hung around and bided his time.
But in a move that smacked of suicide, the BJP made Advani their PM candidate in the 2009 general elections. That move backfired spectacularly and the BJP was decimated and the Congress saw a massive Lok Sabha surge. The Congress-BJP Lok Sabha seat equation stood at a stark 206-116.

But still Advani refused to retire!

When Narendra Modi emerged as the rising star, Advani should have had the grace to back him, but he decided to take him on! By now he was in his 80s. Instead of joining hands with Modi and strengthening the party, Advani decided to weaken the very party that he had built in the past.

What followed was an era of tantrums. First he had great problems with Modi being made election campaign chief and resigned. He withdrew from that after getting no concrete assurances whatsoever. Then Modi being made a PM candidate totally devastated him.

Advani will turn 91 in 2019 and is definitely not someone to lead the NDA from 2014-19 if it should come to power. The writing has been on the wall for a decade now and still Advani wants to continue for 5 more years!

The latest drama comes from whether Advani should contest from Gandhinagar or Bhopal. The truth is that it doesn't make the slightest difference whether he contests or not!
The only section in India where he seems to have great importance is solely in the minds of the TV anchors and nowhere else.

The truth is that the Advani era ended in 2004 and the Modi era began in 2012. In between the BJP was in a sort of limbo land thanks to the death of Pramod Mahajan in 2006 and the total failure of leaders like Sushma Swaraj to grab the reigns of the party.

But it looks like he is going to hurtle from one tantrum to another and that will surely be covered by the TV channels 24X7.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogshere.