LK Advani (81) has bowed out as leader of the Opposition. The BJP’s failure to win the people’s mandate under Advani has triggered a debate on its leadership.
His leadership began with the rathyatra in the 90s that brought electoral dividends for the BJP.
Advani may have guided the party through several lows and highs, but with the BJP isolated in defeat, the results signify an end of sorts for him, party leaders say. (Listen to podcast: Part 1, Part2)
The BJP has refused to accept Advani’s desire to quit as leader of the Opposition and has authorised party president Rajnath Singh to persuade him to stay on.
With the BJP campaign focused on his leadership as the its USP, his acceptability among voters is being questioned.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was spared that question in 2004 because of his standing and the nature of the verdict.
Even during campaigning, a debate was triggered by the remarks of BJP leaders on the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi being the PM candidate for the next polls in 2014.
Before that, the party had to correct the impression that it hadn’t put all its efforts behind Advani. It wasn’t a heartening sight for Advani. As he admitted to some journalists, Advani missed Vajpayee.
A battle of wits is on the cards, with Jaswant Singh (71), Rajnath Singh (57), Sushma Swaraj (57) and Murli Manohar Joshi (75) now being members of the Lok Sabha. All four of them could vie to be the leader of opposition.
Though it may be a while before a clamour builds up for Modi or any other leader, Advani had hinted at bowing out long back – in case the BJP is unsuccessful.
He wanted to do so when he was about to turn 80 in 2007 and before he was named the party’s prime ministerial candidate after the RSS took a call.
In his many interviews during the campaign, Advani indicated as much when asked what he would do if the BJP did not make it in this election. He said he was handed a responsibility– to lead the BJP and the NDA in Lok Sabha polls – and he had accomplished it to his satisfaction.