Is BJP leader LK Advani, who embarked on his sixth rath yatra on Tuesday, attempting yet another image makeover? The one time Hindutva hawk had tried to project a moderate image when he praised Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan in 2005. It was seen as an effort by him to make himself acceptable to a wider section of people in order to be showcased as NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
However, the plan boomeranged and the people while rejecting Advani in 2009 also reduced the number of BJP MPs in Lok Sabha from 138 to 116.
But, Advani has apparently thrown his hat in the ring again. His latest yatra is being seen as his desire to be once again projected as NDA’s PM nominee.
However, the RSS has made it clear that it will support his yatra on the condition that he withdraws himself from the PM race. Aware of the fact that he may have a problem in getting the Sangh’s backing, Advani’s new strategy—is to get endorsement from the allies first, particularly former socialists.
Probably his calculation is that once the Janata Dal (United) and other erstwhile socialists support his candidature, the Sangh will have no option but to accept him.
The yatra symbolism so far has been tilted towards socialist leaders rather than those of the Sangh. The yatra began on the birth anniversary of Jai Prakash Narayan from his birthplace Sitabdiara which Advani has never visited.
JP was a socialist who by involving the RSS and Jana Sangh in his movement in the mid seventies legitimatised the Sangh whose activities were viewed with suspicion till then. October 11 also happened to be the birth anniversary of Nanaji Deshmukh, the Sangh ideologue who helped Atal Behari Vajpayee wrest control of the Jana Sangh after Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s murder but there was no reference made to him in either the speeches or in posters.
All along the yatra route till Varanasi, there were no posters of either the Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee or Deen Dayal Upadhyaya though Advani made a passing reference to the latter. Instead, he decided to lay emphasis on socialist ideologue and leader Ram Manohar Lohia.
Also missing from the rath were pictures of top BJP and Jana Sangh leader barring Vajpayee and Gadkari. Vajpayee pictures are seen as an attempt to remind people that if he could be a PM of the NDA why can’t he (Advani) achieve the same.
How the RSS will react to these tactics is to be seen even as Advani carries out his mission of desire, politics and perseverance.