Thursday, March 23rd, 2023 17:54:06

Understanding Advani

Updated: August 25, 2012 10:12 am

Former Deputy Prime Minister and the BJP veteran LK Advani’s Blog on August 5 that suggested the possibility of a non-Congress and non-BJP government after the 2014 polls has predictably evoked adverse reactions not only from the Congress party but also from the constituents of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray have disagreed with Advani’s proposition. The Congress has ridiculed his analysis by comparing him with a general who accepts defeat even before the war. Even, many in the BJP have strongly resented the Blog, privately though. The RSS has not liked it either, with RSS ideologue MG Vaidya saying, “it is too early to predict 2014 outcome”.

Media critics say that Advani’s Blog is the sign of frustration that he has over the way the BJP being run these days. Their point is that as the BJP rank and file is not in favour of making him the Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014 polls, Advani has resorted to the mean tactics of demoralizing the party and its alliance partners. “If I am not the Prime Minister, nobody else from the BJP can be the Prime Minister”, so goes the impression on Advani’s present political plan.

However, I do not agree with such critics. If one goes by the content in entirety of the Blog under question, I cannot find anything wrong. In fact, as an editor, I can say that it is a wonderfully argued piece that deserves publication as an Op-ed in any leading newspaper. Let me therefore quote some paragraphs from the Blog, which, as Advani says, was written in response to the “apprehensions” of many Congress ministers that he met recently at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that in 2013 or 2014, “whenever the Lok Sabha elections take place, the Government likely to take shape can be that of the Third Front” and “that according to the Congress Ministers would be extremely harmful not only for the stability of Indian politics but also for national interests”.

Advani’s view is:

  1. i) The shape which national polity has acquired in the past two and a half decades makes it practically impossible for any government to be formed in New Delhi which does not have the support either of the Congress or of the BJP. A third Front Government, therefore, can be ruled out.
  2. ii) A non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of these two principal parties is however feasible. This has happened in the past also.

But, as the Prime Ministership of Ch. Charan Singh, Chandrashekharji, Deve Gowdaji and Inder Kumar ji Gujral (all supported by Congress) as also of Vishwanath Pratap Singhji (supported by BJP) have shown, such governments have never lasted long.

iii)  There has been stability at the Centre vonly when the Government has had either a Congress or a BJP Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the two Governments since 2004, UPA I and UPA II have both been so badly mismanaged that the current state of anxiety in the ruling establishment is quite understandable.

Advani even goes to the extent of saying that “The UPA Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh has failed to take along with his government even his allies. The UPA II has had one aide however who may not be a political aide but who has been so invaluable for it to manage these difficult allies that I have often described it as the Congress Party’s most dependable ally. If the Congress has successfully avoided a Lok Sabha poll till now it is only because of this alliance partner—the CBI!”

Dispassionately seen, the above analysis is very logical. Many will agree with Advani that but for the CBI, and one may add here the other enforcement agencies”, the present central government would have fallen long ago. The CBI and Enforcement agencies have ensured that the likes of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Jagan Reddy do not vote out the Manmohan Singh government. In fact, fairness and justice demand that the next government of India sets up a judicial commission to examine the misuse of the CBI over the last eight years.

Those who criticise Advani for discouraging the BJP or NDA in next round of elections seem to be unfair to him. After all, in the same Blog, Advani has written, “So far as the BJP is concerned, the bungling in Karnataka notwithstanding, all recent public opinion surveys clearly reveal that the principal beneficiary of the Congress Party’s fast eroding reputation continues to be the BJP!” and that “Soothsayers are not wanting who predict that it may be the first time when the Congress Party’s score sinks to just two digits, that is, less than one hundred!”

In my humble opinion, the problem is not the content of the Blog but its timing and authorship. The question is whether Advani should have written this at all, given the facts that he still is a practicing politician and that unlike in the past he is now widely perceived to be extremely partisan and “destroyer” of the BJP in more senses than one. Despite being BJP’s tallest, most eloquent and best-read leader, Advani is being increasingly seen to be power-hungry (the ambition of being the prime Minister despite his advanced age). And despite his notable contribution to building up the BJP as a party of national consequence, Advani, of late, has not played the role of an integrator by taking everybody along. His decision to undertake the last “rath yatra” was by no means the decision of the BJP as a party; it was his individual decision which took the party by great surprise. In fact, the BJP was forced to support him. Besides, he is being increasingly seen as a partisan; evident from the manner he has dealt with the situations involving former Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa (in fact, in his latest Blog, he does mention Karnataka) and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. On the other hand, he continues to support blindly some leaders who are equally, if not more, controversial, even though unlike Yeddyurappa and Modi his favourites in the party do not enjoy any grassroots support.

Though I exactly did not like his record as India’s Home Minister in the Vajpayee regime, I must admit that sometimes it pains me to hear mindless criticisms of Advani, who, all told, has been one of India’s finest parliamentarians and leaders, irrespective of their party affiliations. And as I had written once in this column, in my humble submission, Advani has reached a stage in his political life that has outgrown any ministerial post, including the office of Prime Minister. He can always command respect and exercise power, in fact more power than that of a Prime Minister, by remaining the “Senior Leader” of the BJP, and hence, of the NDA. Like Deng Hsiao-Ping in China (while he was alive) and Singapore’s Lee Kuan, Advani can “set the goal” and “motivate” his party and the government. And as the world knows, Deng and Lee have been their respective countries’ most powerful political leaders.

After all, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines a ‘leader’ as ‘the person who leads or commands a group, organisation, or country’. ‘To lead’ means to ‘cause to go with one by drawing people along; show (someone) the way to a destination by preceding or accompanying them’. In other words, goal-setting and motivation both figure prominently as essential attributes of the notion of great leadership. Advani can always play that role. And if he does that his future Blogs will be less misunderstood.

 By Prakash Nanda

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