Advani the bystander

The plain reason is that Mr Advani is not being as good as his word. He has shown himself a vacillator and will not seek to erect a new platform.

The Bharatiya Janata Party versus L.K. Advani — or the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh versus Advani — tussle is unprecedented in the closed system the RSS has run with much élan since its founding in 1925. An open revolt of this nature at the highest level is alien to the Sangh Parivar culture and mode of political articulation, though secret score settling, about which dark rumours have swirled from time to time, is not.
If the saffron votaries had control of the state apparatus and enjoyed untrammelled power, as say Stalin and his cohorts or the Mao groupies did in their countries, someone like Mr Advani, and those of his acolytes who have stood up for him in public, would be musing on the meaning of life in the silence of a Gulag.
But that is not easy to bring about in a more or less open society with a wide open media environment. In such a situation, it is not easy to shut up someone like Mr Advani. So, the next best thing is to demean and degrade him, using the very tools of the media that otherwise allow a voice to be heard that would otherwise have been muzzled.
And that has indeed been the official BJP effort — to claim that the former BJP patriarch (there is no other meaningful way to describe a previously unquestioned leader who has built the BJP brick by brick, but is now sought to be reviled by those he has raised in politics) is ridden with ambition to such a degree that he would sacrifice the interests of the party for his own, and that he has taken unheard of steps lately in order to have a last crack at being Prime Minister in spite of his advancing years.
The idea is to make Mr Advani a historical non-person, or better still a questionable person worth lampooning and being laid low.
By plotting his moves only in the recesses of his mind, and not developing a clear political agenda and tactical position that may permit a rallying of non-Left, anti-Congress, vectors, Mr Advani has not taken the first step to show that the official BJP-RSS script is motivated or flawed. Or, perhaps he has avoided doing so as he does not possess adequate self-belief. It is also just possible that he would show his hand later if he thinks that things are not going the BJP’s way as we get closer to the Lok Sabha election.
Whatever the reasons, Mr Advani has failed to offer a counter-narrative, and that is no help in leaving a mark on history. If you resign from leading positions one day, citing structural flaws, but retract a day afterward, chances are it will take you a lot of effort to recover ground.
In a political environment in which BJP’s rendering of its own story, courtesy the RSS, makes it obligatory for the party to repose its faith in Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and in no one else, no matter what the latter’s detractors and ideological adversaries think of him, Mr Advani was always going to face an uphill task.
And by taking back his resignation post-haste, without any explanation to those who may have looked up to him, has only made things more difficult from his perspective. Or did Mr Advani’s close supporters actually counsel him to fall in line so that their future in the BJP is not damaged beyond repair?
While it is possible to speculate on these questions, it can be suggested that the former lauh purush or iron man of the BJP actually does — or once did — have something to say that is not merely a variant of the RSS’ traditional theme song. But there appeared a lack of steadfastness in stating his ideas upfront. It is this that comes in the way of the recognition of
Mr Advani as a historical figure (important as his contributions to the BJP are), or rather in his transformation as a tragic figure of his times.
Mr Advani (and some others like the late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and those around him), about two decades ago, long before the BJP-led NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee came into being by accepting the diversity of India, did harbour the imagination of taking the BJP out of RSS’ straightjacket by expanding the party’s constituency to hitherto unimagined areas.
These were, perhaps, only amorphous thoughts, but Mr Advani did try to seriously understand the origins, and political traditions and practices, of the German Christian Democrats, and contemplate a political grouping of that nature in its Hindu variant in India. However, when these stray thoughts did not take any shape, and were not worked upon, he did not hesitate to launch and lead the Ayodhya rath yatra with the battle cry of Hindutva on his lips.
The former home minister and deputy Prime Minister faced judicial prosecution for this and expressed political regret for the bringing down of the Babri mosque (“the saddest day of my life”). He later sought to re-invent himself as Mr Vajpayee’s political legatee in acknowledging that the Hindutva plank was an inadequate vehicle of power in a confusingly diverse land.
Just the other day,
Mr Advani contrived to recall that even in the Fifties, the late Shyama Prasad Mookerjee had spoken of gathering all anti-Congress forces together in order to mount a successful challenge against the Congress. But these words are unlikely to cut ice with any BJP constituency, or with the party’s former NDA allies (including Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who broke the NDA on account of Mr Modi’s rise).
The plain reason is that Mr Advani is not being as good as his word. He has shown himself a vacillator and will not seek to erect a new platform.
Mr Modi, on the other hand, is clear-headed about his market radical philosophy and extreme Hindutva consciousness. Besides, when the Congress does not any more enjoy a monopoly of power in the country, the RSS and the BJP calculate that the Hindutva icon can take on a weakened Congress.
When such is the perceived balance of forces, Mr Advani is likely to hold the position of the bystander, forever the Hindutva Hamlet.

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