'Iron Man' Advani fails to deliver for BJP | india | Hindustan Times
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'Iron Man' Advani fails to deliver for BJP

india Updated: May 16, 2009 14:29 IST
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LK Advani, the man who used mobilisation politics to galvanise BJP into a force to reckon with, failed to put the party back in the portals of power - a job A B Vajpayee did in two elections with his liberal image.

The 81-year-old leader's dreams of becoming Prime Minister came crashing down as the Congress-led UPA was all set to form the next government at the Centre.

Although BJP tasted power in 1998 and 1999, Advani had to wait in the wings of Vajpayee and it was only in this election that his party projected him as its PM candidate after the former prime minister stood down from active politics.

A second chance appears unlikely for the BJP's aging 'Iron Man' as during the campaign the saffron party started projecting Narendra Modi as future prime minister, a strategy that is being rued by some leaders in the wake of defeat.

It was Advani who had catapulted the BJP into the national stage with his Hindu nationalist pitch in the 1990s when he emerged as the leader of the Ayodhya movement.

For half-a-decade, Advani played second fiddle to Vajpayee in the party and also as Deputy Prime Minister in the NDA government, but when the time came for him to lead, he failed to find his feet.

In fact, the 'tallest' leader of BJP also had a knack of getting into controversies. His fall from grace with the Sangh Parivar began after NDA lost power in 2004 and more so after his visit to Pakistan in 2005 when he described Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a "scular" leader.

Advani was forced to resign as BJP President on December 31, 2005 over his remarks on Jinnah.

A five-time Lok Sabha member, Advani had way back in 1995 projected Vajpayee as the party's prime ministerial candidate, although he had full control of the organisation at that time.

He had then told Vajpayee, as also party officials, that only Vajpayee was best suited for taking the party's cause forward. A year later BJP came to power for the first time but the government lasted for just 13 days.

In 2005, Vajpayee returned Advani's compliment, calling the 'Iron Man' his 'Ram', virtually anointing Advani his successor. This was followed by his projection as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, even though elections were almost a year away.

In the 1990s, Advani ushered in a new form of campaigning by undertaking a series of journeys across the country on a mini-bus that he called 'Rath' (chariot).

His first such journey - the Somnath-Ayodhdya Rath yatra - changed the course of politics of the country as it whipped up Hindu nationalist sentiments, contributing to the fall of V P Singh Government.