Friday the 13th perhaps has turned out to be the unluckiest day in the life of the Bharatiya Janata Party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani. With his protégé Narendra Modi being officially named as the party’s choice for prime ministership, Advani who still nursed an ambition to hold the country’s top post finds himself isolated in the organisation he built over the years.
The astute politician has been completely outwitted by the very people whose careers he shaped. In fact, Narendra Modi the man who is going to be the brand ambassador of the saffron brigade has got this far only because of Advani’s patronage.
Not only had Advani saved him from being sacked at the Goa Conclave of the party in 2002 when Atal Behari Vajpayee had virtually made up his mind to remove the Gujarat chief minister but later gave him due protection from his other rivals in the Sangh Parivar.
These rivals included both Keshubhai Patel, the man whom Modi had replaced as the CM in 2001 and Sanjay Joshi, the RSS pracharak who once was Modi’s roommate. Needless to say that Advani too benefited since his own Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency falls in Modi’s bastion.
Several factors have contributed to Advani’s miscalculation. First, he refused to accept his rejection during the 2009 parliamentary polls when he was the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA.
Second, over the years he destroyed the party’s natural leadership to prop up leaders who simply owed their rise to him alone. Thus at this crucial juncture, majority of these leaders abandoned him and looked towards Modi for a brighter future.
Third, Advani did not give up the belief that since he had built up the party, he would continue to be its lifelong leader. That the change was inevitable was perhaps never factored in his scheme of things and he was sure that no one would dare to oppose him. He never reckoned that Modi would be his undoing.
Finally, ever since he parted ways with his one time adviser Govindacharya, Advani never found anyone who could give him sound advice.
Advani has also been receiving a lot of support from people who in his own definition of the early nineties could be best described as “pseudo secularists’’. Those who call him a moderate forget that he was a hawk who had no qualms over using religion to strengthen his base.
His effort to change his image to that of a moderate only harmed him since he tried to put himself in the Vajpayee mould to be in the race for prime ministership. He forgot to keep pace with the thinking in the Sangh Parivar that in order to have a strong NDA, it was essential for the BJP to become strong. Change in ideology to suit the interests of allies was no longer important to the new dispensation in his outfit.
But those who have followed his journey are equally acquainted with his hard-line approach during his Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra in September 1990. He was also accused of conspiracy in the demolition of the Babri Majid, which later led to a huge communal divide.
Modi’s emergence has ushered in a new chapter in the history of the BJP and indicates that the party was now ready to move forward from the position it acquired due to the contribution of both Vajpayee and Advani. While Vajpayee is unwell, Advani will find it very difficult to become relevant once again.