Clutching Rss Offered Lifeline, Advani Returns Home
He has returned “home” rather meekly grabbing the lifeline provided by RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, who called Advani and that was that. Advani withdrew his resignation, the first wise thing he did to salvage his dignity as much as possible. Thus the drama started by the frustrated at being marginalized, livid at Narendra Modi, initially his protégé and now his bête noir being made Chairman of the Election Campaign Committee and overestimating his political importance Advani had sent letter of his resignation to the party President Rajnath Singh. In the letter he accused “others” of pursuing their personal agenda. In his anger Advani forgot what he was doing, other than pursuing his own agenda.
Advani refused to relent to the Parliamentary Board resolution requesting him to withdraw his resignation, there was no sop or face-saving proposal in the Board’s offer. Naturally Advani stuck to his resignation. But his associations with JD(U) and the Congress’s soft spot for him surfaced.
JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar and convenor Sharad Yadav said NDA was unthinkable after Advani’s resignation as it was negotiated with him and Atal Behari Vajpayee. They let it pass that Vajpayee has been inactive for the last few years. Digvijay Singh felt sorry for Advani, Salman Khurshid said confusion prevailed in the BJP.
The fear that a series of resignations by his supporters would follow did not happen. Nor the RSS relent. Its Chief said the decisions at Goa Conclave were non-negotiable. This was a major setback for Advani. If he expected that after his letter a volcano would erupt and the lava would shake the earth below the BJP and the RSS, it did not materialise. Instead of lava, ashes came out as far as Advani was concerned.
He has obviously forgotten the incident of Sunder Singh Bhandari who was vice-president when Advani was president of the BJP. A letter somewhat similar to Advani was written by Bhandari. He was sacked because of it. Advani is lucky. Except that almost thousand plus comments about his resignation are extremely insulting and they show the low esteem he has among the common people.
One wrote “Bhishma Pithama done a mistake by this act”, another said, “Advani’s image is in gutter now… BJP should get rid of him,”, the third wrote, “Advani’s current kabaab me haddi role does not augur well for BJP’s image as well as for his own image as a stalwart politician. In the present scenario, it may be very difficult for him to continue with BJP. Best thing for him to have a peaceful retired life singing kaarvan guzar gaya, ham gubaar dekhte rahe when he feels despondent or bade be-aabroo hoke tere kuche se hum nikle when he feels disheartened.”
The generational change took place in BJP at the recent Goa conclave, the baton passing from the then sulking and defiant L.K. Advani to Narendra Modi, was not cancelled. Such an action was not even considered. This could lead to a major churning of Indian polity with the General Election also turning into a referendum on the primacy of secularism in Indian politics given by most political parties and which incidentally would also reveal the interpretation by and importance of secularism for voters.
The elevation of Narendra Modi on the centre stage following his selection as chairman of the party’s Election Strategy Committee ignoring the various Advani suggestions (aimed at diluting Modi’s standing in the party) was the party’s and RSS’s snub to its senior most leader, and who was along with Atal Behari Vajpayee the architect of BJP. Advani refused to read the direction of the political wind. He reminded the party that if Modi was selected, the defence of his role in 2002 Gujarat riots would diffuse the party’s charge of corruption against Congress. But all this was seen as an effort by him to devalue Modi and thrust himself as a possible prime minister nominee.
What he was also hinting that Modi’s elevation would alienate Nitish Kumar with whom everyone knows Advani has good rapport. It has been proved following his resignation. Also Mulayam Singh has been praising Advani, so he becomes a key to any alliance with Samajwadi Party. In all these machinations, Advani forgot what debacle the BJP suffered in 2009 election under his leadership. And as far as Kumar is concerned he has now Hobson’s Choice. If he splits with BJP, it is possible that he would not get more than six or maximum 10 MP seats. His popularity or rather lack of it was bared in the Maharajganj by-election. The JD(U) candidate, a minister, and for whom Kumar campaigned intensively lost to the still-disliked Lalu Yadav’s RJD candidate by the huge margin of 1,37,000. And for Mulayam Singh, the lawlessness and corruption under his son’s government have made the party quite unpopular. Most probably Kumar and Yadav would benefit if BJP joins any of them. So Advani might not be important post-election for alliances.
The RSS backed Modi, because it has realised the wishes of party workers, young people and several BJP state units. The pressure of the party workers and the youth worked and even some of those who were not favourably inclined to Modi acquiesced to his elevation.
Politicians like Advani basking in the past glory often forget history. In 1990, when Janata Dal won on the back of the popularity of V.P. Singh, the move to make Chandrashekhar Prime Minister was thwarted due to pressure of the people. While the tension built up inside the Central Hall where the parliamentary party was meeting to elect its leader with Chandrashekhar and his backers insisting on election for choosing Prime Minister, and V. P. Singh insisting that he would agree to lead only if unanimously chosen, outside a crowd of about 2000, comprising mostly students shouted V.P. Singh, V.P. Singh. They symbolized millions in north India who batted for Singh. The pressure was too much and Chandrashekhar and his backers cowed down. If Advani recalled that January 1990 milestone in political history of India he would have saved himself from some not very nice observations in the contemporary political history, and that too when he is 86. Unfortunately, Advani wrote his own ignominious fall from the high pedestal he was on.
Now what chances BJP has under Modi. He is accused of polarising effect and most crucially branded as non-secular, in fact a fundamentalist. The stains of 2002 riots in Gujarat are kept fresh by a legion of his critics. They are not ready to accept the argument that so far nothing has been proved indicating his alleged connivance in the killing of Muslims. And his repeated assertion that he would work for the development of all people is ignored!
Digvijay Singh has said Congress is not afraid of Modi. In fact because of him more Muslim voters would flock to Congress. But they alone cannot win Congress ample number of seats. What is certain is that Rahul Gandhi who too heads the election committee could give it up citing some reasons. Otherwise it would be a straight Gandhi vs Modi. Mulayam Singh and Kumar’s spokesperson have dismissed the appointment of Modi as an internal matter.
Meanwhile Modi has chalked out 75 meetings in 150 constituencies in different states. His strategists plan to use 3D technology to reach through videos to villages. Thus plan is to cover as many constituencies as possible. The other BJP Chief Ministers, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Dr Raman Singh have already welcomed Modi’s appointment and they would campaign intensively in their states, and so would Vasundhra Raje Scindia in Rajasthan. In these states Modi would not have to put too much effort. Then Jayalalitha is supposed to be very close to Modi. He might not go to Tamil Nadu several times. In Karnataka Yeddurappa is said to be close to Modi, who is expected to bring him back before the election. In Andhra Jaganmohan Reddy is anti-Congress, he could support Modi. In Bihar Sushil Modi too is enough. He has in any case invited Narendra Modi for a rally in October. That would be the first “trespassing” by Modi in Nitish Kumar’s territory.
With all this going in his favour, it cannot be said that Modi would win back the Centre for the BJP. There are too many imponderables to predict the number of seats Modi can manage to win. What is needed is a wave—Free India of Congress is not enough to rouse voters. Then of course the apprehension is that Advani group could be divisive and try and split the party during the election. Modi would need strong support to quell this kind
The General Election, as mentioned before, would be a referendum on what secularism is and what primacy it has in Indian political ethos. It would be an election where those who want a strong administration, free of corruption and rapid development even by one who is allegedly non-secular and those who want secular credentials in the leader, notwithstanding whether he could provide a strong, decisive administration or not.
The fact is the next election could throw up most surprising result. BJP with 150 or 160 seats might fail to form a government, whereas Congress with 60 or 70 MPs might become part of a coalition. But this would only be possible if Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Communists get enough seats, around 215. Otherwise, it would be BJP and his supporters, Jayalalitha, Reddy, Badal would take over.
The other view, quite credible, is that all old basis, theories and database of calculations and predictions would not be factors in the election 2014. It could be of an all together different kind—in some states caste might cease to be basis of polling; there are 15 to 20 crores young urban who have different reasons, other than caste, for deciding whom to vote; the indecisiveness of the UPA Prime Minister has evoked strong desire to elect a decisive administrator, dynamic enough to root out corruption and ensure safety of women.
The fact is that election 2014 is flat open, no one knows the outcome. But one thing is sure Advani would not let peace or unity in BJP.
By Vijay Dutt
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